Saturday, February 16, 2008

Avoiding the Most Common Search Mistakes


Search results that miss the mark are usually due to operator error. Put another way, you're more likely to find what you want when you make a good query.

BrightPlanet, an organization which offers tools and guidelines for searching deep Web content, identifies several common search mistakes including the following:

* Misspellings. "If the searcher issues a misspelled query term, that is what is searched for. So, recognize that computers are stupid and guard against these mistakes yourself. Sloppy entry of query terms will cause you time and frustration."

* Redundant Terms. "Limit your keywords to six to eight. Check to make sure you're not duplicating 'levels' in your terms. You can generally spot redundant terms by asking the question, "Is this term already covered by another term?" If the answer is yes, pick the term at the appropriate level and discard the other one."

* Alternate Spellings. "As a searcher you should be aware that many common terms — colour/color, organise/organize, behaviour/behavior — may differ in spelling between these two forms. If you suspect that a keyword in your queries may have alternate spellings, we advise you to treat these alternates in the same way you handle synonyms, listing both forms in an OR Boolean expression. "

* Improper Boolean or Complicated Construction. The four pitfalls you may encounter here are "Excessive nesting or terms, which search services may not process in all instances and which may not achieve what you want the query to do; unintended results from combining the AND and OR operators; improper (and unintended) use of the AND NOT operator, and unbalanced parentheses."

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