Getting Comfortable With The Basics

Browser – Search – Research

Browser:                                                                      Printable version

A web browser or Internet browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web.

You can install and use more than one browser!

Search Engine:

A web search engine is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are usually presented in a list of results and are commonly called hits. The information may consist of web pages, images, information and other types of files. ..

Many Search Engines to choose from.

Google search basics: Basic search help

Search is simple: just type whatever comes to mind in the search box, hit Enter or click the Search button, and Google will search the web for content that's relevant to your search.

Most of the time, you'll find exactly what you're looking for with just a basic query (the word or phrase you search for). However, the following tips can help you make the most of your searches. Throughout the article, we'll use square brackets [ ] to signal a search query, so [ black and white ] is one query, while [ black ] and [ white ] are two separate queries.

Some basic facts

  • Every word matters. Generally, all the words you put in the query will be used.
  • Search is always case insensitive. A search for [ new york times ] is the same as a search for [ New York Times ].
  • Generally, punctuation is ignored, including @#$%^&*()=+[]\ and other special characters.

To make sure that your Google searches return the most relevant results, there are some exceptions to the rules above.

Tips for better searches

  • Keep it simple. If you're looking for a particular company, just enter its name, or as much of its name as you can recall. If you're looking for a particular concept, place, or product, start with its name. If you're looking for a pizza restaurant, just enter pizza and the name of your town or your zip code. Most queries do not require advanced operators or unusual syntax. Simple is good.
  • Think how the page you are looking for will be written. A search engine is not a human, it is a program that matches the words you give to pages on the web. Use the words that are most likely to appear on the page. For example, instead of saying [ my head hurts ], say [ headache ], because that’s the term a medical page will use. The query [ in what country are bats considered an omen of good luck? ] is very clear to a person, but the document that gives the answer may not have those words. Instead, use the query [ bats are considered good luck in ] or even just [ bats good luck ], because that is probably what the right page will say.
  • Describe what you need with as few terms as possible. The goal of each word in a query is to focus it further. Since all words are used, each additional word limits the results. If you limit too much, you will miss a lot of useful information. The main advantage to starting with fewer keywords is that, if you don't get what you need, the results will likely give you a good indication of what additional words are needed to refine your results on the next search. For example, [ weather cancun ] is a simple way to find the weather and it is likely to give better results than the longer [ weather report for cancun mexico ].
  • Choose descriptive words. The more unique the word is the more likely you are to get relevant results. Words that are not very descriptive, like 'document,' 'website,' 'company,' or 'info,' are usually not needed. Keep in mind, however, that even if the word has the correct meaning but it is not the one most people use, it may not match the pages you need. For example, [ celebrity ringtones ] is more descriptive and specific than [ celebrity sounds ].

The Basic search help article above covers all the most common issues, but sometimes you need a little bit more power. This document will highlight the more advanced features of Google Web Search.


Some practice searches:

  1. weather Phoenixville, PA
  2. weather 19460
  3. toaster oven target
  4. italian restaurant 33908

Other research tools:

  • Wikipedia – You might shun this online, open-source encyclopedia if you've ever been burned by prank entries or fudged facts. But because anyone can edit Wikipedia, it's a richer resource than Britannica for subjects off the beaten path, such as the 1960s underground press or rivethead subculture. Though it's not the only source you should reference in term papers, at least Wikipedia gets you started.
  • Google Scholar – Google Scholar searches journals in the arts and humanities, business, science, medicine, and mathematics. It turns up abstracts and sometimes full articles that are indispensable for academic and professional research and points to libraries that keep the hard copies. 
  • Google Book Search – Google's goal to digitize the world's libraries has hit some copyright snags, but Mountain View continues to sign deals with universities, scan books, and put their pages online. You can read the entire text of books in the public domain or see excerpts from, say, Build Your Own All-Terrain Robot, before committing to buy the hard copy. Props are due to Project Gutenberg, the first major effort to make e-books free.
  • Yahoo Answers – When you're stumped about something, asking a knowledgeable person can cut to the chase better than a Google query. But what if there are no experts on, say, epiphytes in your circle of friends? Pose that question about rare orchids to Yahoo Answers, and you're sure to find a green thumb among the tens of millions of users. 
  • Google Earth – Google Maps first made satellite views of the planet free on the Web. But the Google Earth download gets you even closer, letting you fly around the globe, zoom in for a closer view, and add your own landmarks with Google SketchUp. If research brings you back to the land, Google Earth is an essential ally. For instance, environmentalists fighting mountaintop removal mining used Google Earth to assemble a virtual tour of the damage done.

Definition of the word "default" when used in relation to computers.  A value that a program or operating system assumes, or a course of action that a program or operating system will take, when the user or programmer specifies no overriding value or action.

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