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Research Process

Find Internet Sources

Just like when searching a catalog or a database, when searching online it is best to be specific and precise with your word choices.  Search engines don't do well if you type in a long sentence or a question. So just like with a database, you choose keywords to start with and then build your search query. For this example, I am going to focus on using Google. When you do a search in Google, Google automatically puts AND in between every word.  

If you enter:

benefits distance learning students                                         

Google will search:

benefits AND distance AND learning AND students            

If you have a phrase like distance learning, remember to put quotes around the phrase to force Google to search those words together only:

benefits "distance learning" students                                       

will search:

benefits AND "distance learning" AND students                    

Using quotes around phrases will greatly reduce the number of hits you get.

One you have your search query, you an do a search and then review your results. Google will bring up what it deems as the most relevant first, so check to see if the results are really relevant to your topic.  Also, you might be getting results you want, but mixed in are other results with keywords in them you don't want.  Look to see if you are getting results that you might want to get rid of. If what you are looking for isn't in the first page or so, you should choose different keywords and redo your search query. Also, if you got a bunch of results with keywords that have nothing to do with what you want, you should redo your search and exclude those keywords. To exclude a word, use - (the minus sign) before each word you want to exclude.

For example, if you get several results that had to do with law school and you wanted to exclude those results, you would type:

benefits "distance learning" students -law            


View this video - Web Search Strategies in Plain English:

Web Search Strategies in Plain English from ICT Eerste graad on Vimeo.

Domain extensions are one clue as to what type of agency posted that site.

Common domain extensions include:

            .com   commercial                           .edu    education

            .gov     government                          .mil      military

            .net     network                                 .org     organization (non-profits)

When searching Google or Yahoo!, you can limit your search to a specific domain or you can exclude a domain. If you want to limit your search to educational sites, you can do so by simply typing site:edu (or whatever domain you prefer) after your search terms.

Or you can use –site: to eliminate certain domains. For example, if you are researching rheumatoid arthritis and you want to eliminate .com sites, you can search "rheumatoid arthritis" –site:com. This will eliminate any sites selling drugs or devices for RA. This strategy works in both Google and Yahoo!.

Most domains you see including .com, .org, .info, and .net, anybody can register their site under. Also, many believe that if a site ends in .org, that it is a non-profit organization. That is not necessarily the case. For instance, Wikipedia is a .org site. You could register a site right now under any of these domains at

On the other hand, .edu sites are reserved for accredited U.S. educational institutions and .gov sites are reserved for U.S. government organizations.


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