Search Syntax


This lesson includes several practice searches using different symbols. You will learn how to combine the symbols and words to search for a topic.  

Search Engines

A search engine searches databases by using key words. It is also known as a key word search.

1. Click on the Alta Vista button.

2.Type sun into the white selection box. Press "search".

Result?13,000,000 entries?

too many.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

3.Type: sun AND corona

into the AltaVista text box; press "search".

(and requires that both terms be present within the document)

Result? 48,000 entries, too many.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

4. Type:  +sun+corona

(+ before a term retrieves only the documents containing that term)

163 entries. managable.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

5. Type: sun NOT corona

(NOT excludes a term from a query)

53,000. too much stuff.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

6. Type: +sun-corona

(- before a term excludes that term from the search)

163 . managable.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

7. Type: sun NEAR corona

(NEAR requires that one term must be found within a specified number of words)

69,000. bad.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

8. If you   can't remember how to spell a word, such as Mendelyev's name, type the part of the word you do remember


(place the * after the word, do not have a space before *)

38 . managable.

altavista.gif (2345 bytes)

9. Type: "sun's corona"

(quote marks indicate that the words within the quote marks are to be treated as an exact phrase)

1000. not too bad.


altavista.gif (2345 bytes)
How do I know when to use a directory, a guide or a search engine?


Directories are based on subject categories. Subject searches begin with broad subject categories and proceed to more and more specific subject matter.

To use a directory search, follow the search path and each stop examine the choices that are provided.


10. Click on Yahoo.This will take you to the Science directory. Scroll down and click on Astronomy

Type: "sun's corona"

Results?2 !!!!!! great

go back to the astronomy directory. Type: +sun+corona

What happened?


yahoo.gif (465 bytes)


An index is similar to a directory but is more subject specific.

11. Go to the Argus Index. Click on "Science and Mathematics."

Click on "Astronomy"

Click "search " on the left side.

Type: sun




Multi-Engine Searches

This is also called a meta-search and utilizes a number of search engines at the same time. The search is conducted through keywords and some common operators such as AND, +, and "".

12. Go to the meta-Index. Select an appropriate index and search for

"sun corona"

Are you happy with the results?






Internet Resources Meta-Index


13. We will use DogPile to search all search engines at once. Click on Dogpile and type

"sun corona"

Is this what you need?


arf-pile2.jpg (11314 bytes)



These pages authored and maintained by Marcella Dawson. Revised 07/12/99. Copyright 1995 CRPC GirlTECH. All rights reserved. . Email your comments. These pages were developed through GirlTECH '96, a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.