Fact Monster’s Guide to Doing Research on the Internet

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
  • Be as specific as possible with search terms. If, for example, you heard that scientists have discovered that Jupiter has more moons, include all the information you know when doing your search. If you simply search on Jupiter, you'll get too much general information. But if you type in Jupiter, moon, and new, you'll probably find out what you want much more quickly.
  • If you’re searching for a specific phrase, put the words in quotes. The search engine will only look for the exact term. For example, if you want information on the Vietnam War, type “Vietnam War”.
  • On many search engines you can get more specific results by doing the following: Use the word AND (in uppercase letters) to indicate when you want two or more terms to appear in the search results. For example, if you’re looking for hurricanes that occurred in Bermuda, you’d type Bermuda AND hurricanes. Similarly, you can use the word NOT (in uppercase letters) to eliminate a term from the search. For example, by typing Bermuda NOT shorts, you’d tell the search engine you’re not interested in Bermuda shorts. Use can also use the plus sign (+) and minus sign (–) in place of AND and NOT. Don’t put a space between the sign and the search term.
  • If you’re not having luck with your search term, try using a synonym. Instead of typing Revolutionary War, try American Revolution. Or instead of 9/11, try September 11.
  • When searching for biographies, it helps to type the word biography after the person's name in the search engine. That weeds out some irrelevant search results. Biographies on the web are notoriously inaccurate, so it's very important to check dates and other facts against other biographies to make sure they are right.
  • Go directly to a site if you know it will help you. For example, if you’re looking for information on Saturn, and you might try NASA’s site first. You can type the URL directly in the address bar. If you don’t know the URL, you can search for the site using a search engine.
  • Try different search engines if one isn’t producing adequate results.
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