Conducting Electronic Research

Simple Search

A simple search is keyword driven. Google, Yahoo!, MSN Search and Ask.com are four popular search engine Web sites designed especially for this purpose. Each is a database with a primary search field and a search button located on its home page to lead you to a display of results.

The following demonstration illustrates a simple search for source material on the subject of tolerance for a composition class. A preliminary list of keywords might include the following words and phrases:

Note: When entering a phrase, enclosing it in quotation marks will tell the search engine to look only for those results containing that exact phrase. This comes in handy when you want to narrow your search. If you prefer a wider initial search, do not use the quotation marks.

Steps of a Simple Search Using Google

Step One

Most Web site search engines operate in the same way. In this demonstration the researcher uses Google to look for the first word on the list above. Feel free to click on Google and become the researcher yourself. The screen-shot below illustrates the home page after first step has been taken.

The researcher has entered the word tolerance into the search field. Spend a moment studying the page. Notice that the Web link is in bold, black letters and is not underlined as are the other links. That's because Web is Google's preset default option.

If you wanted to find an illustration related to tolerance you would click on the Images link before clicking the search button. Notice also that there is an Advanced Search option to the right of the search field. In the next guide we'll take a look at how to use this type of option.

Screen shot of Google simple search

Step Two

For now, click on the Google Search button. The results for will appear in a new browser window as illustrated in the screen-shot below.

As you can see, the first ten out of 118,000,000 results for the word tolerance are displayed. Each of the blue underlined phrases is a clickable link leading to an individual website or page that may provide useful information. The link will turn purple after you have made a selection helping you identify which sources you have already examined.

Screen shot of Google simple search

Step Three

In theory, the first ten results are the most relevant to your search, but that is not necessarily accurate. In fact, how a Web site or page gets ranked in the top ten often has more to do with content design factors and the number of visitors it receives than actual relevance.

Bear in mind that a Web site is highly visited for a reason, however. It's a good idea to look at the link titles on the first 5 or 6 pages before refining or revising your search. You will, at the very least, find some great keywords to add to your list.

If the researcher would have clicked the I'm Feeling Lucky button, Google would have skipped the results page and immediately opened up the site or page most relevant to your search. Theoretically, that's the first link. Go ahead, try it out for yourself.

Note: At the very bottom of the page is a Search Within Results option. Clicking on it will keep a revised keyword search within the parameters, or boundaries, of the original results.

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Introduction