Search engine secrets: how to be a web whiz!

22 June, 2004

Review by Bianca Bronzin

Search engine secrets are now no longer secret because Miranda Morfey, Medical Librarian at Flinders University, gave it all away with her most interesting, vibrant and practical session on how to use a variety of search engines to enhance our searching skills. This exciting session held at CPA House in the city, was very well attended and enjoyed by all. Miranda’s impressive knowledge and enthusiasm for her topic was contagious and her coloured handout ‘cheat’ sheets are a great bonus for those who attended. These sheets give brief but clear information on how best to use each search engine to obtain maximum results. In addition, Miranda gave us a copy of her PowerPoint slides of her presentation.

We were shown the most useful ways of using the various search engines. However Miranda suggested that when starting to look at a new area, we ask ourselves “who would know about this topic?” so that we could search for a particular organisation specialising in the that field. Such organisations could be private, government organisations or universities and finding their websites can provide a wealth of relevant and reliable information. For example going to the Australian Bureau of Statistics website when looking for statistical information.

Miranda pointed out that it is best to practice using several different search engines in addition to using Google, as other websites have some unique results and features. Several search engines were discussed and we were shown wonderful tools and features for Google, Alltheweb, Teoma, HotBot, and Vivisimo (this latter one useful when searching on a new topic – it focuses on concepts).

During the practical brainstorming session we exercised our minds to develop the best and alternative search strategy for a reference query. Using Google, we used truncation, ~ (tilda), URL domain and file types such as ‘pdf’ and ‘doc’ to reduce search results to answer our question. It was most interesting to see how lateral thinking helps in finding the best possible results.

The evening proved to be most successful with attendees feeling they have gained further knowledge to enhance their reference searching skills. In appreciation of Miranda’s skilful and exciting presentation, the SALIN Committee thanked Miranda and presented her with a potted plant.

Event worksheets


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