Personal tools

Internet search tips

Search techniques

Before you start typing an essay question into a search box, think about what exactly you're expecting to find - use our guide to search theory and techniques

Take another perspective

If you are finding that the results just aren't what you want, take a fresh approach and use a different web search engine, or save time and search across more than one web search engine at a time by using a meta-search engine such as myallsearch which cross searches nine search engines including Google, Bing and Ask all from one search field!

When you search the Internet the search engine will store data about the sort of things you have been looking for and will personalise results to you using this search history. Sometimes you may wish to break out of this bubble especially for academic research. For guidance on how your search results may be being filtered by your search engine, have a look at this guide:

Take a look back in time

Have you ever returned to a website and found that the information you were looking for has moved or been removed entirely? The Wayback Machine is a web archive that allows you to go back in time on a url to see what used to be there.

Take a scholarly approach
There are some search engines which focus on retrieving results from more academic institutions such as Google ScholarMore tips on Google Scholar

Search shortcuts
Using the following commands in your search box can rapidly make results more relevant:


  • “Double quotes for a phrase” e.g. “systems engineering” this will ensure that words appear together in search results.


  • - Minus sign to exclude a term e.g. tank -fish. This will remove the word fish from results


  • ? Wildcard for alternate spellings e.g. defen?e will look for both defense and defence


  • *Truncation for alternate endings e.g. comput* will find computing, computer, computers

More search commands are available here:


*Note: not all of these commands work in all search engines, we have tips specific to Google here: Google search tips