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Online Searching

Phrase Searching

Phrase searching is just that - a phrase or question presented in natural language.


  • The effect of caffein upon the grades of college students.
  • Who sang in the role of Glinda in the musical The Wizard on Broadway?
  • Who are Apple's main competitors?

Search engines take phrases and break them up into individual words. They then retrieve documents that match the most words, and sometimes even match the most words in the order they are given. They ignore words like A, An, And, and The.

This method works well for gigantic search engines like Google which retrieve results from billions of records, but poorly for databases and the Library Catalog which are much, much smaller.

NOTE: Because the internet is SO BIG, and because Google finds SO MUCH, searchers usually have no idea how many wonderful things they missed ... or how to find them!

Try Phrase Searching

Try these two searches on Google and note how different the first page results are.

  • The effect of diet drinks on teenagers
  • The effect of sugarless sodas on adolescents

About how many web pages were found in both searches?