Most people I ask think they do ok using Google or Bing search engines, they find what they need pretty quickly. Search engines have become quite smart and sophisticated making our search efforts almost effortless. Yet there are times when we need to search a little smarter to find what we are looking for. I recently completed Google's free online Power Searching course and learned a few tricks worth sharing.
My favorite tip is searching using a date range. Once you have your search results you can narrow your results by timeframe. Click on Show Search Tools in the left column on your search results page. You can limit results to the past hour, 24 hours, week, month, year, or enter your own date criteria. This is so helpful when you are looking for current reviews or research, or you are looking for older documents.
Only use quotes around words if you want results that contain the phrase that you've put in quotes. For instance if you search for "street signs in Montreal" vs. street signs in Montreal, varying results will be returned.
Suppose your search contains too many results and you'd like to filter out results that are not what you are looking for. Simply add a minus sign before the word you don't want. For instance if you are looking for results for the name Anna Maria but don't want results about Anna Maria Island or Anna Maria College, search this: anna maria -island -college. By the way capitalization is ignored in your search. However as you probably know word order does matter. If you search Maria Anna your results will differ from searching Anna Maria.
Are you looking for information on a subject (solar energy) from a particular website (nytimes.com) or type of website (edu or gov)? Use site:name of site. For instance, solar energy site:edu or solar energy site:gov or solar energy site:nytimes.com.
If you can't remember these search rules, you can click on Advanced Search which allows you to fill out a search criteria form. You can find Advanced Search if you click on the tool gear from the top right of your search results, or way on the bottom of your search results page.
Here are a few handy dandy searches you can try:
Weather with city or zip code will provide you with the current forecast and weather for the next few days ahead (weather 11743).
Time with city or zip code will provide the current time at that location (time london).
Flight with airline and flight number provides departure and arrival information (flight southwest 157).
You can convert quantities by using in: 30C in F will convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. Other conversions work as well; meters to miles, cups to quarts, etc. You can also put calculations into the Google search bar.
For additional search shortcuts, you can check out Google's tips and tricks page.
If you've managed to read this far (thanks for sticking with me on this one), you may also be interested in this Google video about how Google search actually works.
Happy searching and may you always find what you seek!