with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Searching the Internet

This section will cover three of the most popular techniques used for searching the Internet with search engines. These three techniques will work on most search engines, but not all. If in doubt, click on the link to HELP or ADVANCED SEARCH on the search engine main web page to find out what your usage options are.


The use of quotes around a phrase forces your search to include only that “exact phrase”. The search engine looks at the phrase as the search “keyword” and only searches for that particular phrase. For instance, if you
are searching for:

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Your search will turn up everything with the word “Microsoft” and everything with the word “Internet” and
everything with the word “Explorer” in it. Not much help. By constraining the phrase into quotes, the search
engine will only look for that phrase, narrowing your search:

“Microsoft Internet Explorer”

What if you are looking for information on the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Using it without quotes you will
find every page with word “Hebrew” and every page with the word “University” and not even come close to
finding the web page for the “Hebrew University”. Surrounding it with quotes forces the search engine to look
only for “Hebrew University”. If you want to be really specific, you could type:

“Hebrew University in Jerusalem”


In brief, the concept of using Boolean Logic for Internet searching is like using English terms for mathematical
phrases. For example, A+B can be said to be “A and B”. A+B-C could be said as “A and B not C”. Using
simple English terms, we can connect words together to get the results you need.


The Boolean term “OR” is the most commonly used search term. It searches for synonymous terms or concepts
to increase your chances of finding what you are looking for. For example, I searched for the words “college”
and “university” on AltaVista and got:

college = 17,482,765
university = 34,685,550

By using “OR” in my search, I can look for all web pages with either word, increasing my search, but also
narrowing it to documents with either word. There are many documents which will host both words, so I don’t
want to double my search by finding those twice.

college OR university = 34,227,850

By adding another term to our OR statement, we can increase the number of resulting documents even more.

college OR university OR campus = 39,872,445

This is helpful when you are looking for a reference with returns little or no information. By adding synonyms you
increase your chances of finding the information you want.


The use of the Boolean term “AND” searches for documents in which both terms are found. This narrows the
search parameters to what you want.

Search for crime AND poverty

crime = 3,546,588
poverty = 854,687
crime AND poverty = 1,867

By adding a third term, you narrow your search even further.

crime AND poverty AND gender = 85


The Boolean term “NOT” is an exclusion. It searches for records that do not include that specific word, excluding
them from your search. This narrows your search to very specific results.

cats = 4,514,897
dogs = 5,640,015
cats NOT dogs = 85,649

Using Boolean

You can combine different Boolean terms to get the results you need, either widening or narrowing your search.

In simple English Boolean phrase
I want information on cats. cats OR felines
I want information on cats and dogs not vets. cats AND dogs NOT veterinarians
I want information on girls and women not boys. girls AND women NOT boys
I want information on females not boys. females OR girls OR women NOT boys


An abbreviated method of using Boolean terms is available on many search engines. Called the Plus/Minus
technique, it uses pluses and minuses to represent “AND” and “NOT”. Plus = AND and NOT = Minus. Note that
the plus and minus comes BEFORE the word.

In simple English Boolean phrase
A and B +A +B
A and B not C +A +B -C
I want information on cats.
NOTE: OR is implied in Plus/Minus so nothing is used, just type the two
cats felines
I want information on cats and dogs. +cats +dogs
I want information on girls and women not boys. +girls +women -boys
I want information on females not boys. females girls women -boys

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