05 More Search Techniques

No Formal Presentation Today

"How many" Queries

  • While using quotations in queries, each search engine we have explored has the limitation of only being able find exact phrases without much flexibility
  • A useful tool for creating your queries is the * symbol which allows the search engine to insert a word or short phrase within the query

Example #1

  • Let's start by looking at some of the exercises from today's class:
    • Come up with a list of 30-40 cities in Michigan.
      • Start with this query
      • Looking at the results, we get a bunch of pages describing the number of cities in Michigan that . Scrolling to the 5th link down, we see an exact match. Looks like we lucked out this time.

HINT: More often than not, a query will not yield what you are looking for on your first try. You should use these exercises to practice your ability to form good ones.

Example #2

  • Let's look at another example:
    • How many people are in the United States?
      • We'll start with a basic query
      • Looking at the results, we can conclude that a number of pages cite the U.S. Census Bureau as their source of information. This could be useful! However, one question that arises is whether the numbers presented are up-to-date. Let's try putting both of these ideas together by looking for a 2009 census or at the very least a number from 2009.
      • Let's apply our newfound knowledge. Try this query
      • What did we get? Scrolling through the page, we see more relevant results. However, we are still seeing a bunch of irrelevant numbers not pertaining to the entire U.S. population. Some numbers aren't even from 2009. But how can that be? Looking at the urls from the last query, we can see that searching for 2009 within the urls could fix part of the problem. Let's try using this information.
      • Here's a new query
      • Look at that! We got a handful of different sources all reporting a similar number…and they're all from 2009! Clicking on "repeat search with omitted results" will yield 14 different sources. Most importantly, we have arrived at the answer we were looking for.

HINT: When developing your query, try to assemble a handful of key phrases to incorporate into your search


  • As you can see, by combining a number of different tools, we were able to arrive at many of the exact solutions we were looking for.
  • Remember that your tools are not limited to simply what's put in the query. Look at the relevant results: are there common urls, titles, terms, etc.? You should be thinking about all of these things in order to incorporate this information into your next query.
  • If the information from your relevant sources is not sufficient, take a look at the irrelevant results. What do they have common? Incorporate this into your new query.
  • Rinse, lather and repeat. Sometimes it's hard to get that query right on the first try, but keep trying! With practice, you'll be able to become much more efficient.


Remember to do the experiment and submit it by 5pm on Sunday!


To view Dr. Moore's outline for this class, click here

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