Web searching for the researcher, part 2

This is the second part of a two-part article on getting the most out of DuckDuckGo for research. Start here.

Narrowing the search

Excluding a search term can improve results. Let’s say you want to find out about trumps in card games and not about the president. Try this:

trump card -donald -president

That doesn’t get rid of all the irrelevant results; I got a headline that says “China plays Trump card brilliantly.” But most of the results are about cards rather than politics. DuckDuckGo is honest enough to say that the minus sign gives you “less” with the search term, not none.
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Web searching for the researcher

Writers of every kind need to do research. Even if you’re writing pure fantasy, you occasionally need to check on human physiology right or cultural allusions. This often means using the search engines — but they make it hard. They give you popular results instead of accurate matches. They give you recent stuff while ignoring older pages. With some work, though, you can force useful results out of them.

I’ll be focusing here on DuckDuckGo. Google annoys me in too many ways to mention, and I get tired of people giving it free advertising by telling me to “google” something. DuckDuckGo has its own problems, but it least it doesn’t second-guess you based on your earlier Web activity. They’re similar in a lot of ways, so a lot of this advice will work with other search engines as well.
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Battling the search engines

Whether it’s Google, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo, all the search engines seem to work the same way, and they all have the same problems. I generally use Startpage, but it’s just a privacy-enhancing front end to Google. If you look for an unusual word, they’ll decide it should really be another word. I’ve gotten used to this happening with my name, but even the FCC Commissioner has the same problem, with search engines giving mostly “O’Reilly” in the results when I search for “O’Rielly.” If I search for DROID, the software tool from the UK National Archive, I’ll get lots of hits for “Android.” (Insert obvious Star Wars joke here.)
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