As search engine technology and usability becomes ubiquitous, people have become more and more comfortable doing their own searching. Although most people can find what they need eventually, the strategies outlined below will help improve the techniques of even the most experienced searchers.
Use your time wisely
- Do a preliminary search
- If you're a busy professional and haven't found it in 10-15 minutes, ask a librarian. Students, research is part of the learning process. Give yourself at least 45 minutes before throwing in the towel and going to a librarian for help.
Don't believe everything you read
- Choose your resources carefully. Library resources are evaluated before purchase. Don't assume that the web has the most recent (or accurate) information.
- Trust, but verify. Always check to see how recently a page has been updated. Always look for information about the author of the page. Ensure that the source is accurate.
Know what tool to use and when to use it
- Use a search engine when looking for something specific, an unusual term, or an exact phrase.
- Use advanced search features to refine your search.
- Read the search engine help pages for new techniques.
- Try variations on your search terms.
- "pollution prevention" "waste reduction" "source reduction" "waste minimization" "zero waste"
- Useful Google search tricks. Links to more search tips and operators are in the list in the box to the right.
- Site search
- Use site: to restrict your search to a specific web site
- Example: “pollution prevention” site:epa.gov
- Exclude a word
- Add a dash (-) before a word to exclude all results that include that word.
- Example: “solvent use” printers –computers
- Use Google as your dictionary
- If you're looking for a definition, try the define: operator
- Example: define:biomimicry
- Not sure why Google sent you to a particular page? Use [Ctrl][f] to search for your terms on a web page or in a PDF document.
- Google Tips for Refining/Filtering Search Results
- Filter your search results by type of content. Some options include web, images, maps, videos, news, books, places, blogs, discussions, applications, and patents.
- Other filtering options include:
- Publish date
- On the search results page, click Search Tools, then click the arrow in the Any Time box that appears. The option Custom Date appears at the end of that list.
- Verbatim search
- Use a directory or guide with curated links (like this one) when you're looking for lots of information on a particular topic.
- Use the database resources at your local public, university, or community college library, especially if you're looking for journal literature. Google Scholar is also a good option. Use synonyms and advanced search features here too.
- Your local library's interlibrary loan service will help you get full-text copies of articles that you locate using these databases.
- If you can't find it or don't know where to start, ask.
It isn't always on the Internet
- Use your local library's catalog and commercial databases, WorldCat (link in the box in the right column), and Google Scholar to identify relevant print materials, including books, government reports, and journal articles. Much of the pollution prevention information published in the pre-Web era is still helpful, particularly in industries using twentieth-century production processes.