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Savvy Searching: Optimize Your Time Online

Since Google was created, it has quickly found its way onto millions of Internet-literate people’s computer screens. It’s not only a noun; it’s also a verb entry in the dictionary and a sign of what an indispensable tool the Web has become in everyday life. From the absurd to the practical, you can find information about everything through online searches. Looking for a beef stew recipe? No problem—just type in “beef stew,” and thousands of results will pop up. Want to know how to write a romance novel? It’s easy—just look it up online. Need advice on how to milk a cow? No worries—that’s covered, too. As readily available as information on the Web is, though, online searching isn’t just about entering keywords; using a few simple tricks, you can vastly improve your searching capacity. 

Get Specific
To get the most out of online searching, it’s important to be as specific as possible. If you are searching for information on how to cook a turkey, searching for the phrase “cooking a turkey” will yield better results than just “turkey.” If you are researching America’s involvement in the Iraq War, it’s better to search for “America’s involvement in the Iraq War” than for “America and Iraq,” for instance. The more words you add to your search term, the more pertinent your results will be. 

Plus and Minus Signs
Use plus and minus signs to exclude and include specific words and phrases. For example, “+England+prime minister-Gordon Brown” will retrieve searches with the terms “England” and “prime minister,” but not “Gordon Brown.” 

Quotation Marks
Using quotation marks around phrases is a great way to get more-specific results. When you type in a specific phrase, such as “Florida Keys,” the search engine will reveal only results that include the phrase exactly how you typed it. 

Try a Variety of Search Engines
Using different search engines for different searches is a good way to mix things up and get more results. Every search engine produces different results, so it’s important to try out a bunch and see which ones yield better results for your specific searches. Yahoo, Google, Ask, and Bing are some of the more popular search engines. 

Related Terms
Including a tilde (~) in your search terms will return related terms and phrases. For example, if you add a tilde to the search “~Vietnam,” the search engine will give you a list of Web sites related to Vietnam. 

Quick Definitions
Rather than consulting a dictionary, you can do a quick word-definition search online. Just type the word “define” and the word you want to define—for example: “ define: puerile.” 

Using “Or”
Using the word “or” in between two words helps to make searches more specific. When you enter two words, such as “Cambodia Laos,” a search engine will assume you want it to look for Web sites that contain both of those words, and it won’t direct you to pages that include just one of them. If you type “OR” in uppercase letters between the words, your search engine will give you results that include only one term or the other. 

Be Site-Specific          
If you want to search for a topic within a particular Web site, such as, type the site name in your search field. For example, if you type in “site: chocolate,” you’ll be able to find all the articles related to chocolate on 

Money Conversions
Going to London for the weekend? To quickly convert U.S. dollars to pounds, just type “50 U.S. dollars in pounds” into your search field, and the result “50 U.S. dollars = 29.9868058 British pounds” will appear. Use this tool for any currency. 

Quick Calculations
For the mathematically challenged, online searches can make complex calculations much easier. For example, type in “245964 * 23-300” (using the * symbol instead of “x” between numbers you want to multiply), and the search engine will produce this result: “(245964 * 23)-300=5656872.” 

It’s easy to type a single word into a search engine and get thousands of results right away. But to speed up your searches and narrow down the results to a more manageable, useful selection, educating yourself about online-search shortcuts is a great way to keep abreast of the ever-changing Internet.