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Pretty Simple

Building a search query can be daunting, but like anything else, once you get the hang of things, it's really pretty simple. At its easiest, submitting a query involves a single word entered into a search engine. In the event you need to perform a more elaborate search, however, you'll need Boolean operators that can help you tune up your search terms to give them more specificity. 

Boolean operators include the following words and terms:

*AND-All search terms are linked with the word AND or in some engines, the symbols + or &.

*OR-You can try more than one phrase or word by inserting the word "OR" so that you broaden the possibility of finding one of these search terms within a page or document.

*NOT-Insert the word "NOT" before a word or phrase which you want to exclude from within your search. Some search engines allow the use of "-" as a substitute for the word NOT.

*FOLLOWED BY-The use of this phrase between two terms means one term must appear right after the other within the same page.

*NEAR-With this phrase, you can specify the maximum number of words separating two search terms.

*Quotes-Any words placed between quotation marks must be found as an exact phrase within the page.

Multiple Meaning Pitfalls

If Boolean operators sound like a good thing, they are. They can aid you in refining a web search, but these operators are not without their drawbacks. The problem with these operators is that they are very literal which can set you up for a fall when you're using a search term with multiple meanings.

Take for instance, the word "pound." The word can connote a weight, an act of physical force, or a place where stray dogs are kept. You may only want to know about dog pounds, but using the word "pound" on its own is going to give you many useless results. On the other hand, if you type the words: "pound" AND "dog," you're going to be very pleased with your search results.

Topical Linkage

Researchers are now examining the idea of concept-based web searching in which words are linked with topics. For instance, the word "Iraq" could be linked with the topic: "Weapons of Mass Destruction," or "Gulf War." Using such linkage, a web search may, in theory, turn up a greater number of topical pages within one search.

Yet another area of search engine research involves natural-language queries in which the user can type a question into the search box. The most popular example of this type of search engine can be found at For now, only the simplest of queries can be used as a search phrase, but researchers hope to find a way to enable more complex questions as search terms.


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