Search engines have become an invaluable research tool for modern information seekers. Conducting a basic search by typing a general phrase into search engine can often yield fruitful results, but advanced searches are usually more efficient. While advanced searches take a little more time to perform, that time investment is usually made good by the increased relevance of the search results.
All Words vs. Specific Phrases
Generally, when a phrase is typed into a basic search bar, the engine will return links to web pages that contain all of the words in the phrase you searched but not in any particular order. The engine might display pages with the exact phrase first, but not always; web pages that contain most of the phrase but have a lot of traffic might trump web pages with the exact phrase. If it is important to find web pages that only contain the exact search phrase, an advanced search will allow you to do this.
Unwanted Words or Word Combinations
Advanced searches allow you to specify words that you do not want to be included in the search results. This is particularly handy in instances where you are searching for information about a topic about which a popular movie or book has been created. If you want the search engine to return web sites about the topic but not about the movie or book, you can use an advanced search to exclude the word "movie" or "book," or even the name of the movie's director or book's author.
Basic searches will yield search results with websites in different languages. These are not very useful if you do not know the languages, and sometimes your computer's browser might not be able to display them properly even if you do. Sometimes search engines can do a decent job of translating a page from a different language, but often it's not even worth trying. Advanced searches can be used to limit the search results to pages written in your preferred language.
File Type Limitations
Advanced searches can also be used to return specific file types. People upload information as Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint files--among many other types. Sometimes these files contain more useful information than websites. In cases where websites are returning disappointing results, or if you are looking specifically for a spreadsheet or presentation file relating to your topic, use an advanced search to limit the file type.
Different types of domains tend to provide more reliable information than other types. For instance, websites from the .edu domain are generally created by university professors and are thus considered to have authoritative and accurate information. Websites from the .com domain are usually generated by commercial organizations with the goal of selling something; while they may still contain accurate information, they equally likely might not. The domains of .org and .gov are generally considered to be reliable sources of information as well. Basic searches will yield websites from all domains, but advanced searches can be used to limit results to the more reliable .edu, .org and .gov domains.
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