Mass Media Research: An Introduction - 9th Edition
Roger D. Wimmer & Joseph R. Dominick

Search Engine Tips

Roger Wimmer, Ph.D.

While the Internet contains an almost unlimited amount of useful information, it also contains an almost unlimited amount of useless information.  Internet search engines provide a way to filter through all the information and isolate specific items.  This discussion is a brief introduction to using search engines.  For more information, you can, as you might have guessed, search the Internet.

If you conduct a search on the Internet for search engines, you will find many, many options.  However, to make things easier, this discussion focuses on only one of the most popular engines, Google.  Although there are a few differences among search engines, most of the tips discussed here can be used with any search engine.

The Basics
Simply typing a word, term, or phrase into the search box on a search engine performs a broad search for that item.  For example, let’s say we’re interested in conducting a search for information about the textbook, Mass Media Research: An Introduction by Wimmer and Dominick.

A simple or general search for mass media research an introduction produces about 2,010,000 items, and that’s too much for anyone.  (Notice that capital letters are not necessary for a search.  Most punctuation is irrelevant, but to be safe, it’s best to include punctuation in the search topic.)  The problem with a general search is that the engine looks for any use of each of the words—all the words do not have to be used together—and that’s why the engine finds so many references.  However, there is a way around that by searching for an exact use of a word, term, or phrase.

An exact search is accomplished by placing quote marks before and after the word, term, or phrase, such as “mass media research an introduction”.  Conducting this search on Google produces 335,000 items, substantially less than the original 2,010,000.  But there are still a few references that are irrelevant to our search. Adding a few additional words after the final quote marks reduces the number of sources even further (when adding terms in Google, there is no need to use the + sign; it is assumed):

Search Item

References

mass media research an introduction 2,010,000
"mass media research: an introduction” 335,000
wimmer dominick 1,020,000
“mass media research an introduction” wimmer 252,000
“mass media research an introduction” dominick  215,000
“mass media research an introduction” wimmer dominick 207,000

NOTE:  The searches were conducted on March 19, 2010.  However, the number of search items found changes almost daily, so to view the most current number of references, click on each search item.

It’s also possible to eliminate words from a search by using a minus (-) sign.  For example, a general search for mass media research produces 35,000,000 mentions.  Narrowing this to an exact search with quotes (“mass media research”) reduces the list to 47,200 items.  However, after a quick glance at the list, several include the word "center” that is not relevant to our search.  We can eliminate these by using the minus (-) sign, and our search entry becomes “mass media research” -center and this reduces the list to 39,400 items.

It’s possible to further reduce the search by including additional items with a minus sign.  For example, adding a few other words to exclude, the search topic “mass media research” -center -college -catalog reduces the list to 34,100 items.  There is no limit to the number of words to exclude from a search, but if too many words have the minus (-) sign, it’s best to start over again and enter something such as, “mass media research” class syllabus, which produces 439 items.

Search Item

References

mass media research 35,000,000
“mass media research” 47,200
“mass media research” -center 39,400
“mass media research” -center -college -catalog 34,100
“mass media research” class syllabus 439

 

 

Other Examples
This example demonstrates the number of references found with “mass media research” as the base for the search:
 

Search Item

References

"mass media research" radio 10,600
"mass media research" college radio 1,130
"mass media research" tv 13,000
"mass media research" television 25,900
"mass media research" colleges 7,580
"mass media research" universities 17,800

Here’s is a search to show the power of using a refined search approach:

Search Item

References

sampling error 11,000,000
“sampling error” 1,210,000
"sampling error" mass media research 6,980
“sampling error” calculator 12,200
“sampling error calculator” 299

Another way to find things is to use http://groups.google.com/ (the old www.deja.com).  This site searches all types of groups—discussion groups, boards, etc.  For example, go to the site and search for sampling error calculator.  You’ll be amazed at what you find.

As mentioned, this discussion uses Google as an example because it is easy to use and includes a variety of options.  If you go to Google, you’ll notice an “Advanced Search” option at the top of the page.  If you click on that, you’ll be taken to another Google site, www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en.  There you will find that options to search for the exact word, term, or phrase are built into the search process.  For example, there is no need to use (-) or (+).  In addition, there are several other options referring to language, file format, date, occurrences, and more.

The best way to become efficient with Internet search engines is to practice.  Search for something that interests you and refine your search with quote marks, additional words outside the quotes, or with the minus sign to exclude words.  In addition, Google has additional refinements to search specific sites, groups, images, and more.

Finally, to avoid reinventing the wheel in reference to using search engines, there are thousands of sites that offer help—click here.

 

Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 9th Edition, Home Page

Wimmer Research, Home Page