How to find information from Internet - Part XII Common Mistakes in Searching

We discussed lots of tips and tricks in last 11 articles in this series. It's time to look at traps or common mistakes in searching. These are mistakes, blunders and gaffes that happen very often.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Perhaps the biggest mistake that we often commit unwittingly is to search in wrong places. Yahoo! Google et al are great search tools and usually capable of answering 80% search queries. However, there are about 20% odd queries that can not be answered satisfactorily using general purpose search engines. You need a special tool - specialized search engine. We have already discussed enough on specialized search engines including resources in the Net in past issues - so no more discussion is required. However, we need to be aware about them and be prompt to find and use them in 20% odd queries that need special attention.

Beating Around The Bush

Perhaps the next most common mistake is selection of right keyword. More often, our search keywords are very broad - almost vague. If you always get lots of unwanted junk in your search result with very few relevant pages - its time to look very closely at your search keywords and of course how you search.

The need of the hour is to be specific - very very specific. If you are not satisfied with search result and feel you are missing relevant pages - then and only then gradually broaden the search.

A Rose is a rose is a ROSE...

Unfortunately, for some search engines - a ROSE is not a rose, neither Rose. Some of us have the habit of using all capital letters - some people do not like them in e-mails and some search engines treat them specially.

You should be aware of the fact that some engines are case sensitive while others are not. The former differentiates between rose and ROSE and Rose. So, if you search for 'BUYER' in such a search engine - only pages with word 'BUYER' be retrieved leaving pages with words 'buyer' or 'Buyer'

As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to always use lower case letters when you search. This typically returns results that contain both upper and lower case letters. This is usually a good thing for proper nouns like names or places, which use initial upper case letters anyway. But it might cause you to miss other documents where case-sensitivity is less important.

Closer Look at Origin

Search engines by default search for word(s) in whole page unless instructed otherwise. Using a facility called 'Field Searching', you can ask it to look for the word(s) only at specific sections of a HTML page. Field searching usually results in cutting down junk.

For example, you can ask search engines to search for words only in Title section. Title searching is a valuable tool in the searcher's arsenal for getting closer to a subject search on the Web. It can be a great way to narrow results and can often give a search more of a subject focus.

Most search engines support field searching. Usually the facility is available via command line and form.

These are some of the more common mistakes. Watch out for more around you and share with us your experience/views.

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 19 August 29' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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