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EMPOWER: Using the Web: Search Tips

Tips for Better Search Results

Use these tips when using a search engine to optimize your results.

Check the advanced features of your search engine to discover other tips for searching.

Be specific
Use nouns and unique words
Use multiple terms when possible
If your topic is "human morality in Star Wars" you could search for:  morals, moral philosophy, ethics, movies, star wars, etc.
Use quotes around phrases
so the search engine will search for the words as a phrase not as separate words
To look for a complete term, rather than individual words in a term, use quotes around it: "Star Wars Episode 7"
String words together
so the search engine will search for the words only if they appear together
Use hyphens between words to find them only when they are next to each other in a page. So Star Wars becomes Star-Wars
Use a plus sign to require words
Search engines may remove common words from your search, such as: an, and, the, I, where, how
Add a plus sign (+) in front of a common word to include it. So Episode 7 becomes Episode +7

Judging What You Find

Because there is no review process or regulation for the public Web, you will need to judge for yourself the quality of the material you find. Keep in mind these questions, from something called the CRAAP test. C.R.A.A.P. stands for:

Currency When was the page created? Do you need more current information? Do links on the site still connect to their destination?
Relevance Does the information relate to your topic, or answer your question? It it too basic, or too advanced for your needs?
Authority Who is the author? What expertise does he or she have on this topic? Who sponsors the site?
Accuracy Does the information presented seem accurate? Are the facts verifiable?
Purpose What is the stated purpose of the site? Does the author make that clear?  What position or opinion is presented and does it seem biased?


See the CRAAP Test: Evaluating Your Sources web page for more details on how to evaluate sources.

Way to Go!

You have completed the Using the Web tutorial! Now you should be able to:

  • understand the organization of the internet 
  • use library web resources and non-library web resources
  • use search engines efficiently 
  • evaluate the content you find in a website 

If you are using EMPOWER as part of a course, log on to Blackboard and take the Using The Web quiz.


Go back to the EMPOWER menu to choose another module.