Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Tips on How to Search the Internet

Here's a step-by-step guide on searching the Internet:

StepDescription Example: Social Psychology at Stanford
1.In the lower search field on SPN's home page, type some words that are likely to be found only in the web pages you seek. stanford psychology department social
2.Enclose any phrases in quotation marks.stanford "psychology department" social
3.Use OR (in capital letters) to search for one term or another.stanford "psychology department" "social OR personality"
4.Use a minus sign (-) to eliminate any undesired terms from the search.stanford "psychology department" "social OR personality" -courses
5.Click the lower "Quick Search" button to get your results. 

Additional tips on searching:

  1. The Internet search is not case sensitive, so a search of "stanford" and "Stanford" will yield the same results.

  2. Unless otherwise specified, all terms are treated as though they are connected by the word AND (that is, a conjunctive search is conducted for all terms listed).

  3. If you get too many results:

    • Be sure that all phrases are enclosed in quotation marks
    • Add an unusual word or phrase that is specific to the searched topic
    • Capitalize titles, names, and other proper nouns when appropriate
    • Use a minus sign (-) to exclude undesired terms

  4. If you get too few results:

    • Check your spelling to rule out typographical errors
    • Add more search terms (e.g., zimbardo in the example above)
    • Add synonyms or alternate spellings (e.g., phil philip phillip)
    • Place a tilde ("~") right in front of any term to search for its synonyms

  5. If you are looking for the answer to a question, search for answer phrases (e.g., "the deadline is") rather than question phrases (e.g., "when is the deadline for").

  6. If you want to restrict your search to a specific domain (e.g.,, you can specific it by typing "site:domain name" after your search terms. For instance, in the example above you might try searching for:

    "psychology department" social

How the Internet search works:

The Internet search is conducted through, arguably the best search engine ever developed. Google's order of results is partly determined by its PageRank algorithm. According to Google:

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."

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