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Using the Internet for Research: Advanced Searching

A brief guide to efficiently and effectively using the internet for college-level research

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Advanced Search Features and Techniques

Here are some tools and techniques that can help you make a search more precise. Many of these techniques also work in the library's databases. Not all of these techniques work in every search engine, but you can either try them out or check the "Help" link of the search engine for more information.

Multiple Keywords

Most search engines will assume a Boolean AND between each word. You can force this by using AND or a + in front of the word. Example: +cats +dogs or cats AND dogs.

Excluded Keywords

Sometimes you definitely don't want a word in your results, like if you were looking for "bass" as in music not as in fish. You can do this by using the word NOT or a - in your search. Example: bass NOT fish or bass -fish.


If you have two words that mean more or less the same thing, so either will do, you can arrange it by using an OR between the words. You almost always have to capitalize OR to get the search engine to notice it. Example: teen OR teenager OR high school student.

Phrase Searching

If you have a search that you want all the words in that exact order, put the search in quotation marks. Example: "four score and seven years ago."


When you are doing complicated searches, it's a good idea to put the various parts in parentheses, to make it easier for the computer to understand. This is especially true when you are mixing ANDs and ORs. Example: (cats OR dogs) and (United states OR america OR usa)

Searching for Information from a Specific Site

If you need things from a specific site, you can limit the search to a type of site (e.g. .edu or .gov) or to a specific domain (e.g. You do this by using the term "site:" in the search. Example: recycling and Warning: this works in Google and some, but not all, other search engines.

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