Tip One: Look in the Right Place.
What the question is should determine where you go. For instance for information on sleep apnia you might go directly to the National Institutes of Health site. For recent legislation, use a site like Thomas. For a zip code, use a zip code directory . For sports scores, use a site like CBS Sports.
Tip Two- Use other parts of the Internet.
The Web is only one source of info on the Net. Rely on listservs and newsgroups to stay in touch with topics pertinent to your field of interest.
Tip Three- Use the right tool.
Try several different engines to search for one word and compare the results. Metasearch engines won't let you get very specific. Use Archie to search FTP sites. Web searches will now search gopherspace. DejaNews catalogs every Usenet posting since March 1995. The SIFT Netnews Server at Stanford lets you search Newsgroups for specific topics. Use a virtual reference desk like the ones at the Internet Public Library or the University of California-Irvine collection.
Tip Four-Focus and Refine.
Look for themes in irrelevant hits and use Boolean operators to eliminate them. Revise the language of your search to be more precise. Search engines do not necessarily put the most relevant hits at the top of a ranked list- often they give precedence to sites that use the word more often!
Tip Five- Use a MultiEngine.
Get fewer but more relevant hits by using a search tool like Metacrawler. If you are getting too many hits, restrict your search by using quotation marks around sets of keywords to create a phrase, such as "multi-engine search tool".
Tip Six- Don't bookmark everything you find.
Speed up your search by cutting and pasting sections of found documents into a word processing document along with the url it came from for later reading.
Tip Seven- Organize your Bookmarks.
If you have ever felt like a rat in a maze after a prolonged spell in that desert, take heart! One thing that surfing can yield is a well organized set of bookmarks that can take you back to places that have caught your interest in the past. But an endless list of bookmarks aren't much help if you don't rename them something meaningful and file them in some rational way.
Tip Eight- Plan your search strategy first.
Effective searching is like a trip to the library. When you go to the library to search for a specific book, You have to look in the right place. You may have to access a specific index or devise a strategy to find something specific. Develop a narrow plan of action. Ask yourself: Is the net a likely place to find the kind of information you need? Due to its history the net is a treasure trove of information on physics, engineering, and science. Government info is abundant on the net. These resources are typically free, and sources that are commercial in nature will require a credit card number to access. Don't expect to find many businesses giving their info away on the net- You will need to go to the library or a pay service to access the Encyclopedia Britannica or Thomas Register in its full version for instance.
Tip Nine- Test the Engine.
If in doubt, test a search engine to find the hidden default operator. Try searching on two unrelated topics like celery and Hercules. If you get a lot of hits you know the fault must be "or" because you will get pages that include one word or the other. You will get a lot fewer hits on pages that have one word and the other! Here is a set of questions you can use to test your search engine.