Are you drowning in the surf?
Elizabeth Lamb, Librarian
Canyon Middle School
Searching vs. Surfing the Internet
Unfortunately, many people
don’t know the difference
between these 2 terms.
Most students who think they
are searching are actually
Surfing a.k.a. “Googling” lacks
planning or use of strategies. It
involves random clicks from page to
page in the hopes of accidentally
coming across the information
needed. Attention is rarely paid to
the reliability of the sources that are
Searching involves using a plan and
specific strategies to target
information. The searcher first
defines what specific information is
needed, identifies which resources
could be useful, and then uses
strategies to find the information
within those resources.
to Search Engines
Try databases such as
o online encyclopedias
o magazine/newspaper article databases
o biographical directories
These are usually very reliable resources and
are updated regularly.
Also, try sites sponsored by
Wikipedia and other wikis
Social networking sites
Advertising sites posing as
legitimate informational sites
Advocacy sites (which try to sway
your opinion on a particular topic)
If you still can’t find information. . .
If the information cannot be found
using one of these resources, then
you will need to find information
using search engines.
This is when internet search
strategies can help save time and
Before jumping on the
computer, stop to take aim. . .
What subject(s) are you searching?
What is the purpose of your search?
What are some synonyms that you
could use to broaden your search?
What phrases could you use to
narrow your search?
What types of sites/pages would
result in the most reliable
Search Strategy #1:
Quotation Marks “ ”
Use quotation marks to group together words. The
search engine will find all of the words together.
Searching for “John F. Kennedy” will narrow your
search to sites mentioning his full name, not sites
that happen to have the name “John,” the initial
“F,” or the name “Kennedy” listed anywhere on
Searching “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the
sun” will tell us that this is the opening line of
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 instead of searching
all of the words separately.
*This strategy is also great for searching song lyrics
Search Strategy #2:
Boolean searches allow you to combine words
and phrases using the words:
OR (a.k.a. Boolean operators)
to limit, widen, or define your search. Most
internet search engines and web directories
default to these Boolean search parameters
anyway, but a good web searcher should
know how to use basic Boolean operators.
*George Boole was a famous English mathematician in the 1800s.
Example Boolean Searches
Searching “polar bears” AND “global
warming” will bring up sites using both
of these phrases.
“Paul McCartney” OR Beatles will bring
up sites mentioning either Paul McCartney
or the Beatles.
Diseases NOT “heart disease” will
bring up sites mentioning diseases other
than heart disease.
Search Strategy #3:
A Variation on Boolean
o Rather than using the words
AND and NOT, you may search
using the math symbols for
plus (+) and minus (-).
+breast +cancer to find sites with
+bears –Chicago to find info about
bears but not the NFL team.
Search Strategy #4:
Wildcard symbols are great when you
aren’t sure of the spelling of a word, you
need to search for variations of a term,
or you need to search for a term with
The symbols are
Question mark (?)
Asterisk (*)—found above 8 on your keyboard
Wildcard Examples: Question Mark
? = 1 character
Wom?n =searches for results with
woman or women
Lollipop? =searches for the singular
and plural versions of the term
Sor?rity =searches for the term
sorority, if I’m not sure of the
Wildcard Examples: Asterisk
* =a sequence of letters
will* =will, willie, william, willing, willful, etc.
politic* =politics, political, politicians, etc.
swim* =swim, swims, swimmers, swimming,
swimsuits, swim lessons, etc.
book* =book, books, bookcase, booking,
bookstore, bookmark, book cover, etc.
Know the difference between
surfing and searching the internet
Make a plan before you get on the
computer. Explore other sources
besides just “Googling” your topic
and make sure those resources are
reliable types of resources.
If you must use a search
engine. . .
Be aware that you must scrutinize each
site your search provides for reliability.
Use search strategies, such as use of
quotation marks, Boolean terms,
mathematical signs, and wildcard
Be careful about spelling! Use synonyms
if you aren’t finding information with the
terms you are using.
. . . And don’t forget to cite your sources!
o Comal I.S.D. “Information Literacy: New Skills for a
Changing World.” 2004.
o “Hassle Free Clip Art.” Hassle Free Clip Art Guide.
18 Feb. 2011 <http://www.
o Hester, Jennifer. “Internet Tips & Tricks for Teachers.”
Comal I.S.D., 2010.
o “Microsoft Office Images.” Microsoft Office 2003.
Microsoft Corporation. 18 Feb. 2011
o Toronto Public Library. The Research Virtuoso:
Brilliant Methods for Normal Brains. Toronto:
Annick Press, Ltd., 2006.