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It's a Jungle
The First Search
The Road Narrows
Specificity Counts
Approaching the Bull's-Eye
A Few Notes and...
- The Road Narrows

After completing an initial search it's usually necessary to refine it to make your results more useful. Remember that search engines aren't smart, people are! When we see the words surface and tension next to each other, we know they go together to form the phrase surface tension. A search engine can't do that automatically; it needs to be told.

Teaching the Search Engine

1. Locate the field where you previously entered the search terms surface and tension. We're not going to change our search terms, were going to change the way the search engine reads them.

2. Above the entry field, you will notice the words look for and a pull-down menu with the phrase all the words. Click on that pull-down menu.

Notice the different phrases. We will focus on two of those phrases: all the words and the exact phrase.

When you conducted the first search, HotBot used its default phrase, all the words. HotBot searched its database for Web documents that had both words, surface and tension, but not necessarily together as the phrase surface tension.

3. Click on the pull-down menu, select the exact phrase, then click Search or press the Enter key on your keyboard. Take a look at the results. What do you notice?

When we did this search, the results page indicated over 5,000 matches, approximately one half of the results from the previous search. Why did this happen? By selecting exact phrase you told the computer to return only Web pages that had the words surface and tension together as a phrase.

4. Another way to instruct many search engines to recognize a series of search terms as a phrase is by placing those terms in quotation marks.

Try this: Use the pull-down menu next to look for and re-select all the words. Then add quotation marks to the beginning and end of the key words so it reads: "surface tension." Click Search or press the Enter key on your keyboard. How many returns did you get this time? (Remember: You will need to click on the word Next in order to get this information.)

This search should have yielded you the same results as choosing the exact phrase. Remember this: with many search engines you can use quotation marks to indicate that the search term you're submitting is a phrase, not a series of words.

image   But 5,000 results is still not very specific, and some of the titles aren't that close to what we're looking for. What can we do?

Continue the tutorial: Specificity Counts.  
Continue the Tutorial

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