04 Search Techniques And Strategies

We go over several standard search techniques and strategies.

Class held on 09/15/2008. Student notes are available on this page. Possible questions are available on this page.

Class structure

  1. Go through “At beginning of class” info
  2. Lecture through the slides.
  3. Talk through the examples
  4. Go through “At end of lecture”

At beginning of class

  1. Today's office hours are cancelled; I have to take my wife to the hospital for a CT scan.
  2. Check who is doing class notes for today
  3. If you have questions, please post them to the class's discussion forum; I check it frequently — much more frequently than I check email on the weekends.
  4. Students should go over announcements made since the previous class
  5. Collect assignments due today
  6. Remind about assignment due in the next class
  7. Your first possible blog entry (on today's exercises) could be turned in next class (see the schedule for details on the timing of blog entries)
  8. Sentence added to the Search Tool Data Analysis assignment: Proper use of statistical tests certainly would strengthen your arguments.
  9. Industry updates:

My notes

  1. Special search syntax — This is the tool that you have at your disposal that allows you to target your searches on specific parts of documents. Since different text in different parts means different things and perform different functions, you can use these operators to raise the precision of your queries.
    • Full text search engines
      • Title — intitle:
      • Site — site:
      • Top-level domain — site:
      • URL contents — inurl:
      • Links — link:
  2. Unique words and phrases — The use of multiple unique words and phrases are a key both to reducing the number of documents that are retrieved and raising the precision of your queries. Further, using multiple words and phrases increases the chances of retrieving content-filled documents (that is, increasing the number of “meaty” documents).
    • They can be used to focus in on more specialized pages that would use those terms
    • Gather related words using summaries
    • Use search engines to find related words
      • Example at Ask.com (both “Narrow your search” and “Expand your search”)
      • Google
        • Google Suggest feature
        • “Related searches” at bottom of search results window
      • Yahoo
        • Yahoo Search Assist feature
        • “Also try” at top or bottom of search results window
      • Yahoo Directory (we'll cover this in a future class) can point in the right direction
    • Use means queries
  3. Query specificity
    • Narrow to more general: this is when you have a real good idea of what you're looking for.
    • More general to narrow: this is when you don't know what you're looking for.
  4. Alternative naming
    • People
      • Using different name forms can return different information
      • Sometimes you have to use other information to differentiate two identically named people
      • Also, search specifiers can help target the information (intitle, site type, include, exclude)
    • Places
      • Use addresses (streets, zips, area codes, phone numbers)
      • Use "official"

In-class examples

Special search syntax

  1. Tigers
  2. Tigers but not Detroit Tigers.
  3. Information from an organization
  4. Information from an organization or a government
  5. Information from a zoo

Unique words and phrases

  1. Bunch of birds example
  2. Use "means" and "definition" queries: Hydrocephalus
  3. Related words: Investment guidance
  4. Fun with quotes
  5. Lyrics

Query specificity

  1. Dog breed information
  2. Dog breed disease information

Alternative naming


  1. George Washington information
  2. Stephen Hawking (as a name example)
  3. Levi Strauss (since there are two/three of them)


  1. Pizza places in Ann Arbor
  2. The Sears Tower (as a landmark)

At end of lecture

  1. Start working on today's exercises. The exercises are on this page. You should work on them for no more than another hour outside of class; we will have more time in the next class after the lecture to continue working on them before going on to that day's exercises.
  2. If you are late turning in today's assignment, you still should go through the effort of posting the information to the results page — the analysis assignment that you will be doing depends on having this information.
  3. If you are going to write a blog related to today's exercises, be sure to review the blogging guidelines before doing so.
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