Using Search Engines

(This project is worth 20 points.)


Search Engines can provide easy access to a wealth of information that otherwise would be unavailable to most people.  Unfortunately, they collect and store information in different ways, so using advanced searching on their information stores varies from one search provider to the next—no two do advanced searching the same way.  Each search engine generally provides site-specific instructions for retrieval of information.  But you may have to “hunt” around for that information!  In spite of the different methods used to do advanced searching, most search engines support similar searching concepts.  These include using Boolean operators (“AND”, “OR”, and “NOT”) and PHRASE searching.

Not knowing these advanced searching concepts and techniques can limit your use of the Internet.  For example if you wanted to find web sites about dolphins (the marine mammal) near Miami Florida, you could try a Google search for Miami dolphins.  You will get about 14 million hits, nearly all of them about the football team.  But if you try a search that eliminates web pages containing the phrase “Miami Dolphins” you will find nearly all the remaining pages found are useful to you.

Submission Instructions

Complete the following exercise and submit your answers as follows.

  1. Using the same submission steps as with the practice assignment, save this file to your computer as “search.htm”.  Be sure to save as “Web page, HTML only”, and not “Web page, Complete” or any other type.
  2. Enter the following information here:

    Student Name: replace these seven words with your name

  3. Search the Internet for answers to the questions asked below.  Then enter your answers to the questions on this page.
  4. Using the same file saving steps as with the practice assignment, save the edited file as “search.htm”.
  5. Return to Online@HCC, and follow the directions to select, upload and submit the completed file to the correct drop-box.
  6. Note that projects sent as email WILL NOT be graded.  You must use this assignment “drop-box”.

Assignment Directions

In this exercise you will use three search engines to search for three different items (multi-word terms), in three different ways each.  You will search using the appropriate site-specific methods for doing “OR”, “AND”, and “PHRASE” types of searches.  Then you will record in the table below the number of “hits” you got for each item, for each search engine, and for each method, for a total of 27 results.

Before beginning this exercise please read the textbook chapters on searching and search techniques.  There are also links for searching tips in the class resources.  For Lycos searching tips, read Seven Steps Toward Better Searching.  For Google tips you can read Four NETS for Better Searching You can also use a search engine to search for something like “Using Google Search” or “Advanced Google Searching”.

Check the appropriate search engine Websites for specific information about how that particular site deals with Boolean searching (“AND”, “OR”, and “NOT”) and with phrase-searching.  That information isn't always easy to find, and some web pages have incorrect information.  If your results don't seem to be as expected, you should double-check the searches.

To begin this assignment, access the Bing search engine at

Do a Boolean OR, AND, and PHRASE type of search, for each of the three items (multi word search terms) shown below.

You must refer to the “Help”, “Search Tips”, or “Advanced Searching” links to determine how to accomplish these searches.  The “obvious” way to do these three different searches may not work!  (And the directions may not be completely correct; for example, the help for Bing is wrong when it says you can use lowercase for “OR”.  You may have to experiment a bit.  Or even search for help on searching!)

You will search for websites about these items:

  1. Line-item veto   
  2. Jalapeno beer   
  3. Digital cash

 Make a note of how many “hits” or “results” you got with your nine different searches.  This information shows in most search engines in the upper right of the window, a line that looks like:

Results 1 - 10 of about 30,800,000 for XYZ

(The exact location of the “number of hits” varies with the search engine, so you may have to look around the results web page for this information.)

Now repeat using these two search engines and see if you get similar results:


Put just the NUMBER of results for each term (in the example above that would be “30,800,000”), into the correct locations in the table below.  (One number for each search term, for each method of searching, and for each search engine: a total of 27 results.)

(Remember NOT to put the results inside of any “tag”.  Always put your answers between the “<td>” and the “</td>” tags; I put in comment tags to show the right locations, but don't put your answer inside the comment tag.)

Search Engine Search Term Number of Hits
OR search AND search PHRASE search
Bing Line-item veto
Jalapeno beer
Digital cash
Yahoo Line-item veto
Jalapeno beer
Digital cash
Google Line-item veto
Jalapeno beer
Digital cash

Searching Hints (“Boolean” Searching)

An AND search means any matching pages must contain all the search words, but in any order and possibly with other words in between.  An OR search means any matching pages must contain any one or more search terms, but it doesn't have to have them all.  A PHRASE search means all the search terms, exactly as typed, with no extra or missing words allowed.  So a search for “root beer” would mean:

AND:  All pages must contain both of the words “root” and “beer”.  Example: “ is the root of all evil in the world today...”  (Matches since the page has both terms.)

OR:  All pages must contain either “root” or “beer”.  Example: “...For some reason weeds like to take root in my garden...”  (Matches since the page has at least one term.  Note the example page for AND search above also matches an OR search!)

PHRASE:  All pages must contain “root beer”.  (None of the previous examples will match a PHRASE search, since the page must contain the exact phrase “root beer”.)

Any web page that matches a PHRASE search will also match an AND search and an OR search.  Also any web page that matches an AND search will also match an OR search.  So if you did your searching correctly, you will always have the most “hits” for an OR search and the fewest for a PHRASE search, and all three numbers will be very different.

This is illustrated using the diagram below.  The circle on the left represents all the hits when searching for just the word “Root”.  The circle on the right represents all the hits when searching for just the word “Beer”.  The intersection of these represents just the hits that have both “Root” and “Beer” in the page.  The small circle in the center represents just those pages that have the exact phrase “Root Beer”:

(Your web browser doesn't support SVG graphics.)
[Venn diagrams showing Boolean searching]

If you get strange results, such as the same number of hits for different types of searches, or fewer hits for an OR search than an AND search, you should check your search very carefully and make sure you've done the search correctly.  Remember, each search engine does these searches differently!  So read the advanced search help (or search tips) before using any particular search engine.

Yahoo Search, AltaVista, and Lycos (and some others) are really Microsoft's Bing search with a different URL.  This search engine tries to limit hits based on guessing what you really want.  But that doesn't happen with some advanced searches!  So occasionally you will see more hits from a PHRASE search than from an AND search, and other anomalies, when using any Bing-based search engine.  (Google has been experimenting with “broken” Boolean search as well.)

Copyright ©2019 by Wayne Pollock