What is the size of the database; how many records are indexed? Who produces or operates the search engine? What does the screen look like? Clean? Advertisements? Easy to use? What other added features does the search engine provide--indexes, current events, people finder, maps, search for graphics, etc.? Do you have a choice to conduct a simple and an advanced search? Are the same sites retrieved with each search engine? Does a search engine retrieve more commercial sites than others? How much commercialism/advertising is attached to the search engine screen display? How much descriptive information accompanies the search results? How are the search results displayed--most relevant first, alpha, etc.? Is one search engine better suited to a particular grade level as far as ease of use or display of results? Can you select the number of "hits" you wish to retrieve? How easy is it to expand the search and ask for more "hits"? Is Boolean searching a feature? What about other limiters such as date, number of results to display, type of material, etc.? Can searches be limited/defined by field? Is phrase searching or proximity searching a feature? Is there an option to re-run the search via other search engines? Are search results graded or rated by relevance or number of matches? How fast is the search engine? How busy is the site, can you get in?
Here are some basic points to consider when formulating a search strategy: Recognize general and specific topics. Identify key words. Choose appropriate terms. Recognize relationship of terms. Enter the search terms or strategy according to the specifications of the search engine. Revising a search strategy. Synonyms. Variant spellings, truncation, and wildcard searching. Logical operators. Indexes. Nature of the topic (pros/cons, compare/contrast, cause/effect, etc.). Searching is a process. Choose the search engine appropriate to the subject or type of search being done. Write the search query in a complete sentence. Write all the synonyms and descriptors, including variant word forms for truncation. Write down all the search statements including operators. Some ideas for good search statements. Does the term have several meanings? For example, a search on the term "apple" may retrieve information on the Apple as a company and apple as a fruit. How could the distinction be made in the search statement/query? Is capitalization important in the search engine chosen? Does the term cover the subject adequately or should other terms be used as well? Is truncation needed? Terms may be searched full text or within specific fields in a record. Is the correct field chosen? Have the search terms been chosen in the context of the search engine being used? Have the appropriate limiters been used such as: " ", +, -, [ ]? Common search problems occur because some... subjects are not covered thoroughly in the Internet subjects have not been written about at all information is not publicly available subjects may be too new to have been discussed in the literature questions are factual in nature and may be answered best by texts or other reference sources. Checklist for zero or irrelevant results. Too many concept (Boolean logic)? Parentheses for nesting (separating ANDs ORs) were used incorrectly? Concepts or terms over specified? Truncation needed or applied correctly (minimum word stem)? Too few synonyms? Proximity operators too restrictive? AND used when OR was appropriate? Typing or spelling error? No information is available on the topic.
Capitalization was used inappropriately?