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 Home > Tutorials and Guides > 3-Step Guide  > Step Two: Difficult Search

Step Two - The Idiot's Guide to Difficult Searches

Sometimes your topic is naturally hidden by related topics. This is especially true for words which have multiple meanings. For example, the word 'bat' has at least three meanings including "nocturnal flying animal", "a club used to strike a sporting ball" and "to strike a sporting ball". A web search for 'bat' yields results for all the definitions, sometimes preventing you from finding what you are looking for.

The following special symbols provide a way for you to make your search results more meaningful:

  • Put a plus (+) before words that must appear (ex: +vegetarian recipies)
  • Put a minus (-) before words that you want to exclude (ex: halloween -candy)
  • Put quotes (" ") around words that must appear together and in the order you specify (ex: "jim smith")

If a word does not have a symbol applied to it, search engines will still look for these words but without the special modications mentioned in the bullets above.

Examples of these special symbols can be found below.

We invite you to try a search here. Results will open in a new window so that you can refer back to this tutorial.

Google
Opens in a new window

Example 1:
Let's say you are trying to find information on Disneyland. Previous searching yielded many results for Walt Disney World but few for the smaller Disneyland.
Solution:
Search for: +disney vacation -florida -world
The result is that more Disneyland results appear because World has been filtered out.

Example 2:
If you want to find a store that sells Phillip Glass music, a previous search such as 'phillip glass store' may have turned up no relevant results.
Solution:
Search for: "phillip glass" store
The search results will all have the words 'Phillip' and 'Glass' next to each other. This greatly reduces unwanted references to the many pages that likely have the two words on the page yet not next to each other.

Try again:

Google
Opens in a new window

If you are unable to find what you need, please proceed to Step 3 - What To Do If All Else Fails.

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