Internet Search Strategies

Effective and Efficient Internet Search Strategies

Finding the right sources online can be time consuming.  Having a plan to search for information is very important whether you are conducting a simple search on a topic of interest or conducting research for a project.  Below you will find information and tips to make your searches more effective and efficient. 


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As you are conducting your internet searches you should be aware of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO uses algorithms based on keywords to sort information. Each search engine may utilize different keyworks and algorithms. Therefore, different search engines may return different results in a different order when searching for the same word or phrase. 


General Search Tips

  • Identify keywords and search them separately
  • Identify synonyms of your keywords and search them separately
  • Use truncation to pick up variations in words (e.g. pharm* to get pharmacology, pharmaceutical, pharmacy, etc.)
  • Specify the format of the information you want (e.g. video, article)
  • Consider using controlled vocabulary, or terms attached to articles by indexers, generally in the “subject” tag
  • Use Boolean search operators:
    • AND means both terms must be present (this will narrow your search)
    • OR means either term as well as both terms are present (this will broaden your search)
    • NOT means one term must not be present (you can also add a minus sign before a word to exclude it from your search)
  • Use the advanced search options in the search engine (usually under settings or tools)
  • Try different search engines


Too Many Results?

  • Use the AND Boolean search operator
  • Place quotation marks around exact words or phrases for which you are searching


Too Few Results?

  • Use the OR Boolean search operator
  • Use the “Similar articles” or “Find similar results” features when you identify one good article
  • Check references of that one good article





Performing an Effective Literature Search

  • Define your topic or question
    • As much as possible, clearly define your question
    • Consider utilizing PICO for medical questions –
      • P – Patient/Population or Problem
      • I – Intervention (often treatment, diagnostic test, or procedure)
      • C – Comparison (Is there a control group or another intervention to consider?)
      • O – Outcome



Seven Steps to the Perfect PICO Search

The actual search for high quality clinical research evidence can be overwhelming to many. By utilizing the PICO format, the search process will be streamlined and will yield the best available evidence to support clinical decisions and explore alternative treatments and procedures. Click on the link for EBSCOs Downloadable detailed PDF article on the Seven Steps to the Perfect Pico Search.