Strategic searching

The first step to achieving better online search results sounds deceptively simple: make sure you understand exactly what it is you want to know.

What am I looking for?

Whether you're looking for the answer to a simple question or seeking online resources for a research task, start with these first steps:

  • start with a broad search, and then refine it by including more specific terms
  • look for resources you can trust
  • select the most relevant search results.

Think about the kind of information that will help you – do you need articles? images? instructions? When you type in your search term, Google shows you results for all types of web content, but you can also choose to view your search results by particular formats; for example, videos, images or maps. In addition, you can filter your search by selecting topics such as news, shopping, books and more.

Would it help to find a table, chart or infographic? Adding these words to your search will also help refine your results.

If you need instructions, adding the simple words 'how to' can work magic. Your query might retrieve results from a page, a YouTube video, a guide or advice.

Keep in mind

To help you identify the most helpful results, consider:

  • what kinds of words would appear on the type of site you're looking for? For example, would the site use 'sore throat' or 'inflamed oesophagus'? This might affect whether you retrieve highly detailed information from a university or medical association website, or information from a health website for the general public or a chat forum discussion.
  • which organisations you would expect to have trustworthy content (eg cultural, education, not-for-profit and government organisations – look for web addresses ending in .gov, .edu, .org etc)
  • if you're looking for historical material, you might need to use sensitive terms no longer in use today (eg black or native instead of Indigenous)
  • adding alternative spellings to your search
  • going straight to an organisation's website, as search engines don't index everything (eg items in a museum’s collection might not be indexed in Google).

It’s important to be clear about the information you want to find, and to enter the most relevant terms, known as 'keywords', into the Google search bar.


Go to Google and search for high blood pressure. Look through the list of results. Now search for hypertension, another word for high blood presure.

How are the results different, and how are they similar?

Things to remember
  • Be clear about what you're looking for
  • Select the best format for your search results
  • Start with the most trustworthy information

Let's look at the difference a few words can make.


Last modified: Friday, 16 September 2016, 11:51 AM