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Searching for something on the Internet is more of an art than science. A search engine's database is simply an index of words and phrases associated with URLs. Your job is to come up with words that match this index. Here are a few general rules of thumb that will maximize your success.

Most search engines provide their own set of operators, delimiters, and rules to help you search efficiently. CHOOSE THE UNUSUAL WORD The more distinctive a word, the more useful it will be for sharpening your search. For instance, you'll get a more targeted search with cercopithecus aethiops than with African green monkey. And try to pick words that really define your idea. WATCH YOUR SPELLING and remember to search for legitimate variations: if you're looking for fly-fishing try flyfishing, and fly fishing as well. THINK ABOUT SYNONYMS If you're looking for backpacking sites, include the terms hiking, trekking, backpacking, and camping in your query. REPEAT YOURSELF After the first try, go to some of the most promising-looking hits, and jot down other terms that you can use to sharpen or widen your search. DON'T FORGET ABOUT "NOT" Some search engines support the NOT operator, which lets you exclude terms. Thus, with a search like metal NOT heavy NOT music you can hit sites dealing with industrial metals and avoid those devoted to heavy metal bands. USE MORE THAN ONE SEARCH ENGINE There is surprisingly little overlap in the results from a single query performed on several different search engines.

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