Conducting Electronic Research

Advanced Search

An advanced search is a step up from a simple search but it's still a keyword driven process. 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 an advanced search by a student majoring in sociology looking for source material on the role of education in promoting tolerance. A preliminary list of keywords might include the following words and phrases:

Steps of an Advanced Search Using Yahoo!

Step One

The researcher uses Yahoo! to look for the first word on the list above. Feel free to click on Yahoo! and become the researcher yourself. The screen-shot below illustrates the home page. As you can see, the advanced search option is a link located to the right of the Yahoo! Search button.

Screen shot of Yahoo advanced search

Step Two

The screen-shot below illustrates the results after the keyword tolerance has been entered and the search parameters, or conditions that refine the search, have been carefully defined.

As you can see, the researcher has been very specific. Take a minute and study the page. The results are to include only those where the words tolerance and education appear in the title of the page and any one of the words tolerance, education and teaching appear somewhere on the page.

Notice also that the researcher has restricted the search to eliminate any results that may have to do with conflict resolution, which is closely related but not included in the scope of the research task.

Screen shot of Yahoo advanced search

Step Three

The researcher has also requested source material that is no more than one year old and that comes only from educational domains (those including an .edu extension). The screen-shot below illustrates the results.

As you can see, the advanced Yahoo! search yielded some very specific results. Notice that there are only thirteen. Often you will receive more but this is a very manageable number. Notice the Boolean search terms in the light-blue search results bar at the top of the page and the minus sign preceding the word conflict.

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.

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 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 examine all link titles on the first few pages before refining or revising your search. You will, at the very least, find some great keywords to add to your list.

Screen shot of Yahoo advanced search

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Introduction