The internet is a massive database storing information of all sorts, answers to almost any question. From looking up bus schedules to searching for the meaning of life, the answers are there, or at least someone’s answer is there. If you’re asking a question that has a factual answer, you should be able to find the correct answer easily enough; you may have to finagle your search queries a little though. If you’re asking a subjective question you’ll get just as many answers, they’ll just all be different, although each one will claim to be the true answer. Some personal evaluation is always required. There are many search engines out there, and more are added each day. The first question you’ll face is which one to use. Each has a benefit, each has deficiencies. You will quickly find out which ones you like the best after searching through endless search results. Google.com for example is a great general search engine, it will find most concepts and pages that explain what you need to know, you may find some guys page in Amsterdam that briefly comments on your topic as well but the top ten results are usually pretty accurate. I’ll get to how to use Google.com and other pages more efficiently later in this article. Wikipedia.org is another great website for looking up factual data only. If you have a question about the Russian revolution, or what bacteria are, here’s where you’ll find your answer. Which site you end up using consistently is up to you, next I’ll tell you which sites not to use.
We all know that the internet is filled with both useful data and useless data, most of us know it is also full of harmful data. Many websites will place trojans, worms, and viruses on your computer if you let them. Stay away from illegal downloads, *** and extreme violence and you should be safe, but there are some of these concerns with search engines as well. Some things to avoid:
If you get more than the occasional popup, dump that site. One popup every other visit or so is probably just a way for the site creator to make some cash, no harm in that. Some sites however flood your screen with multiple popups, or one every time you click anything. These sites may be flooding you in hopes of you accidentally clicking the wrong thing at the wrong time and downloading something nasty. You may not even know it’s there, but they do and whatever they’re doing it can’t be good for you.
If the results come back as *** , no matter what you search for, you don’t want that, well maybe you do.
The last type of site I suggest you avoid are sites such as askjeeves.com, these sites are quality sites in that they don’t have malicious intents. If you use the tips I’ll show you next, you just won’t have a use for sites like askjeeves.com. AskJeeves.com uses other search engines and finds results for you. A great idea for those who are inadequate at searching for themselves, and there is no shame in that, most people are like that. You will no longer need this feature as you will be an expert searcher in a couple more paragraphs.
There are a number of techniques that I use quite successfully to find information, and none of them include breaking thumbs or knees.
The first is put your search in quotes (or search for the exact phrase). You may not get any hits at all, but if you get some they should pretty much be exactly what you’re looking for. Of course this tip won’t always be useful, especially if you’re searching for a single word. If I’m searching for something specific, like “my hard drive is making noise”, I always search for the phrase I want in quotes first. If that doesn’t work I either remove the quotes, or shorten the phrase. Results typically include message boards when you search with quotes, but they are a great source of information, links and all!
Message boards are fantastic, you’ll often be able to find someone who had the same problem, or wanted the same information as you, but he posted a question three months ago and now there are ten answers. You get the same information as him, but now, not in three months. Often message boards will have links to sites that answer your question as well, that way you don’t have to rely on trusting some guy on the internet, like me.
Think outside the box when entering your search terms. Try the obvious first, but if you find yourself stumped, expand your search to include things that are related to what you want to know. For example if you’re interested in knowing more about General Lee, but all you can find when you search for it is the Dukes of Hazard, try searching for the Civil War, or army generals. This is the single most important skill to have when searching for obscure information.
The easiest way to search for something is to let someone else search for it. There are sites such as askipedia.com that will do this for free. It won’t be as quick as doing it yourself, they have a 24 hour guarantee, but it will be much easier. You won’t have to do much work at all, and they may come up with better results anyway.
Practice makes perfect so get out there and experiment. Search of a specific topic and see how many different searches will return the same results, you’ll be surprised.
Joe DeClara, is a researcher/writer for Askipedia.com. A question isn't just something that you have answered, it's a chance to learn something new, and what is more important than expanding our area of knowledge. Come learn with us, all you need is a question.