General tips

  • Pictures: Pictures are hard to find, because you can't just search for a topic or a general string of keywords and hope to turn up a photo. You could search for "toy cars" all day long and never find a website with a photo of a toy car. The way I've found to get around this is to imagine what you would name such a picture, if you'd made it, and then search for that filename - like "toycar.gif" or "tonkatruck.jpg." You can also try searching for keywords and the word "photos," like "toy car photos;" sometimes that will turn up photo galleries for toy cars.

    Now there are a variety of sites that have sprung up to do this sort of search for you. At Lycos, for example, you can search for a keyword and choose a category like news, music, or pictures in which to search. I tried searching for cola photos there, and about half the links it turned up were broken; another quarter of them were totally irrelevant. On the other hand, the ones that did fit were really good. When I made the search more specific, it turned up some excellent sites. Damn, they're just going to put me out of business! Fortunately for me, they could only turn up three of them.

  • Quotes: If you want to know who said something, or if you're not sure if you have a quote just right, try searching for as many words as you can remember from the quote. What will really help is if you can remember a string of words that you're sure are in the right order, or if you can include an unusual word from the quote; these tactics will help you turn up the page you're looking for, instead of a page that just happens to use all the same words you're looking for.

    For example, if you want to know who said that thing about how she used to be snow white but, oh, i don't know, something about drifting, you can search for 'used to be "snow white" drifted.' You can skim the list of results for pages that look like they might include quotes, or pages which are about specific people who might have authored that quote. Which brings us to our next tip:

  • Developing an eye. No matter what you're searching for, the most important search skill is to be able to quickly sort through your results. If you can imagine what the page you're looking for might include, you can skim the list of search results for appropriate pages and look at those results first. Even if those pages don't turn out to be exactly what you're looking for, they can give you an idea of what other search terms you might want to use, or what other areas of the web you should look through. The ability to visualize what you're looking for and search for more than just the words you need is very useful.
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