In the words of a popular novelist, Charles Dickens;
“It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness, it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness, it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair, we have everything before us, we have nothing before us…”– A Tale of Two Cities
It is indeed the best of times in the world of rigorous academics, socialization and even entertainment following the advent, commercialization and subsequent integration of the internet into the very fabric of our everyday life. No one necessarily needs to cram or carry a huge textbook to know the procedure for preparing a dilute sample of tetraoxosulphate (VI) acid from the industrially concentrated sample. You simply Google it up from the internet where there are countless innovative techniques be it standard or improvised. These times, you don’t need the cinema to catch the latest movies in town. You just check in to Netflix – via the Internet, and watch right from the comfort of your bedroom. You can even shop for anything down to your groceries and necessities on the Internet with just the click of your finger.
It is, quite paradoxically, also the worst of times. Unlike the fixed arrangement and sectioning of books in a physical library that makes for easy access and retrieval, the digital e-library – via the Internet requires careful mastery of the various parameters that guide a search. Any random input is certain to bring up thousands of sources whose authenticity and legitimacy are often in doubt. Any kind of movie – whether pirated or original, now flies around freely on the Internet making it almost impossible for producers and actors to monetise the fruit of their efforts. Also, cybercrimes and fraud are now on the astronomical rise as fraudsters and impostors pose as sellers on the Internet marketplace with the sole aim of defrauding unsuspecting buyers who might show interest in their alleged goods. Sadly, these are only a few of the evil the Internet has brought on us.
Despite all these, it is also the age of wisdom – the age where learning becomes exceedingly necessary, free, easy to access and cheap. Schools, universities and other institutions of learning are gradually fading into the background as the Internet has gradually evolved to become a repository of a wide range of knowledge where almost any information can be accessed outside the four walls of any institution. Through the Internet, ground-breaking research is shared easily across the digital space in no time, thereby turning the whole world into a global village where everything is hidden in plain sight. However, accessing this information in little time becomes a task. Due to the large amount of diverse information held, accessing specific information becomes an almost frustrating task as one has to browse through pages of unrelated searches before arriving at one’s search. To find, retrieve or access any information on the Internet easily, one needs to use a Search Engine. Almost every digitally inclined person is familiar with at least one Search Engine but how well do they maximize the various features available on a Search Engine? This article will show you some important steps in maximizing your use of any Search Engine thereby making your quest for knowledge via the Internet an easy, smooth ride.
First off, what is a Search Engine? You probably might not be familiar with that term especially if you’ve never been in a class on Computer and Internet-related subjects? But not to worry, it is something you’re very much familiar with especially if you use the Internet regularly. According to Wikipedia, a Search Engine is a software system that is designed to carry out searches on the World Wide Web in a systematic way for particular information specified in a textual web search query (that is, what you type in to search). Now, that might sound a bit too confusing. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary makes it much easier to relate to as it defines a Search Engine as a site on the World Wide Web that uses such software to locate keywords in other sites. I bet that sound familiar. Something like Google, right? Exactly! Google is a classic example of a Search Engine – you access the website, type in whatever you’re interested in and search the whole Internet at a go. However, other useful Search Engines are not quite popular as Google – Bing, Yahoo!, Amazon, Baidu, Yandex, DuckDuckGo etc.
Before sharing the little tips that I have for you in maximizing your searches on these Search Engines, it is important to bring to your notice a necessary distinction between Search Engines and other Internet tools. All Search Engines help you to search the Internet but not all sites that search the Internet are Search Engines. Confusing, right? Here is the clarification: other websites on the Internet also offer the ability to perform searches just as Search Engines does but their searches are limited to that website ALONE – their search results do not include other websites. For example, if you carry out a search on Facebook for specific information, the results you would get are limited to the Facebook database ONLY. You would never get a result from other websites. Why? Facebook is not a Search Engine. Only Search Engines can perform queries/searches throughout ALL websites on the Internet (World Wide Web). Got that? Let’s dive into the tips next.
1. Specificity: Be specific with your searches
The most common error among most users of Search Engines is lack of specificities. Most people simply jump on Google and type in a question as if they were asking a fellow human and expect to get a direct answer. No, it does not work. Google, and other Search Engines, work based on inputted keywords in your search. That is, they compare billions of web pages with whatever you typed in and show you results containing those words. For example, if you type “cars for sale” as your search query, a search engine would search for websites containing the words “cars”, and/or “sale” in any location and bring you results based on that. Imagine the diversity of car brands you could probably get from such a search and how tiring it would be to check each one before getting to your desired result. Rather, use specific keywords that are tailored directly to your wants such as “Toyota cars for sale in Lagos” or “HP Laptops in Ibadan”. These contain very specific keywords (Toyota, cars, Lagos, HP Laptops, Ibadan) as to what brand and what location you desire and as such, the Search Engine tailors its search around these words only.
A related tip is to put phrases in quotation marks to help the Search Engine narrow its search to a specific area. For example, a random search for Blood Sisters would bring results from websites containing ‘Blood’ and ‘Sisters’ independently in no particular order. However, a search for “Blood Sisters” would lead straight to the latest Nollywood series as it specifies to the Search Engine to filter only results with the words in that order. You can also add a minus (-) sign to the search query to exclude words you do not want in your search results. For example, a search for “best movies -romance” (without the quotation marks please) would exclude romance-themed movies from your search. Alternatively, the plus (+) sign includes specific words you want present in your search results. For example, a search for “winter sweaters +trees” (without the quotation marks please) would yield results of winter sweaters with trees on their design only.
2. Definitions, equations and language translation
Search Engines makes it easier to look up standard and globally acceptable definition of words, terminologies, syndromes, or any professional keyword as they can query standard dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and even professional websites. Adding definition at the end of any search query is certain to restrict search results to definitions only thereby making it easier to quickly lookup confusing words. For example, a search for “terabyte definition” on Google (with the quotation marks please) is certain to yield the following answer – ‘a terabyte is a measure of computer storage capacity and is 2 to the 40th power or approximately a thousand billion bytes – that is, a thousand gigabytes.’
An interesting yet largely unknown feature is the ability of these Search Engines to carry out mathematical operations and provide physical constants. A search for any physical constant such as Planck’s constant or Faraday’s number would yield the numeric value of these constants thereby helping you solve complex mathematical operations. Although, not all mathematical problems would be solved by these Engines, basic and not too advanced ones such as 8 x 5 + 5 would yield a correct answer when inputted for search. Learning foreign languages or quick translation is also possible with the use of these Engines due to their added features such as Google Translate etc. There is also an audio feature that provides correct pronunciation alongside the translation.
3. Search for multiple words OR phrases at once
Rather than waste time performing repeated searches on the Internet, Search Engines makes it possible to search for multiple words or phrases at a go. In addition to reducing the time spent searching and scouring for answers, this can also help you narrow down your search to your exact goals. To perform this trick, insert an OR function (that is, input OR in capitals) between the two words or phrases you would like to search. For example, “best ways to prepare Nigerian Jollof” OR “how to prepare Nigerian Jollof” (use the quotation marks here). It can also be used in this format – “mangoes” OR “foreign apples”. These two exact phrases would be searched for simultaneously as the Search Engine would search for pages that have either mangoes or foreign apples in their content. About Mr Dickens’ quote (earlier referenced), it would be the age of foolishness if these technological advancements such as the Internet and Search Engines, designed to add value to humanity are still being underutilized. It would be folly to know a much easier route to getting things done and still not use that knowledge. I do hope that you would instead use them to your advantage.
by Ayomide Emmanuel Oyekan for The Editorial Team, God is Love Educational Foundation