Basics of Searching

Like filing cabinets, computers just store information. The information in your filing cabinet has no “meaning” to your filing cabinet. Likewise, the information in your computer has no meaning to the computer. Searching a computer is much like searching through a filing cabinet or the index at the back of a book.

In the next sections, we try to clear up some common misconceptions about searching. Along the way we offer some tips and techniques that should make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

You’re not asking it questions

The most basic thing you need to understand about searching is that you’re not asking the computer a question. Computers don’t understand human languages the way people do. As mentioned, searching a computer (or the Internet) is much like searching the index at the back of a book. You need to zero-in on a specific word or phrase. The more specific that word or phrase, the more specific the search results.

Let’s use the Internet as an example. You certainly can search for something like:

What is the capital of Kansas?

You will likely get your answer from any Internet search engine. However, you’d probably get the same or similar results if you search for:

capital Kansas

The keywords in the search are capital and Kansas. The other words don’t help to narrow the search much because you’re searching for words, not meaning. Virtually every page on the Internet contains the words what, is, the, and of, even if the page has nothing to ...

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