How do I conduct good searches? These days, conducting searches online is a part of everyday life. Everything we could possibly need is directly at our fingertips from movie times, to videos showing us how to fix our own plumbing. But most of us don't really think about how we're searching and whether we're doing so efficiently. As a customer support agent, conducting searches for information will be a huge part of your job. As a result, understanding how you search and learning how to search more efficiently is essential. The way we search has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and it changes more every day as the amount of information available online increases. There are many older models for information seeking and retrieval that we're used to, to analyze the way humans gathered information. But the ways people gather information now can be divided primarily into two different models, information foraging and the dynamic or berry picking model. Information foraging is an information seeking behavior theory proposed by Pirolli and Card in 1999. They propose that people seek information in the same way that animals seek food. Information foraging is a cost and benefit assessment. Animals choose food based on how much energy they'll have to expend getting it versus how much energy they'll get from consuming it. Predator animals tend to seek out weaker and younger prey over healthy prey. They'll have to spend more energy hunting them. You may be searching in a similar way. You're not likely to pick resources that are too complicated for you to mentally digest. You'll probably avoid resources that use too much technical language as your first resource. For example, if you're researching a symptom for a sickness, you can tell you're coming down with, you're not likely to choose a medical journal. You're more likely to read a site page that summarizes the information for you. Information foraging is also the reason people are spending less and less time on websites. Longer sites and slideshow style articles do not get read as often because it takes too much effort for the reader to interact with the site. While this is a problem for the people who make the sites, it's good news for readers because more and more sites will adapt to the way people digest information. The second model people tend to use is the dynamic or berry picking model. This model was first developed by MJ Bates in 1989 and has changed several times by different researchers to comply to the way people search now. Berry picking suggests that as a person searches, their information needs change. You've probably used this model too. Let's use the example of coming down with an illness again. Chances are you'll have several different reasons to search as your research goes on. You might enter all your symptoms into the search bar at first. Sneezes, runny nose, sore throat. You'll probably get a lot of results, but not a lot of them will apply. Then after referring to the first resource, you may start thinking you have a cold. You want to be sure so you search cold symptoms. When that seems likely, you might look up when to see a doctor for a cold or home remedies you can try. This is the berry picking technique at work. As you might guess, both techniques have benefits and drawbacks. By using information foraging, you can ignore results that might help you out better. Our personal biases prevalent with information foraging. You might be ignoring better information from a source you're not as familiar with, and the perceived cost of searching for more information may even prevent you from conducting searches at all. The berry picking model suffers from similar issues. The berry picking part of the name refers to a flaw that exists in the technique. If you pick a few berries that are ripe or rotten off a tree, you might conclude that all the berries on the tree are the same way without even checking. So then what is the best way to conduct searches? In ideal conditions, the best way to search is to choose several different resources from different sources to collect an overall impression on a topic, like the way you would research for a paper. There's a reason your teachers in school wanted you to check out many different resources on a topic. It makes for a stronger argument for your paper. On a call however, you're not likely to have enough time to conduct this type of research. So it's important to know where to look in the first place. We'll learn more about choosing good resources later. But for now here are some tips for improving your information seeking skills. Choose keywords carefully. The keywords you used to search are the most important aspect of your search. Make sure that they're spelled correctly and chosen carefully. For example, if a caller tells you that their parcel arrived on their doorstep with broken goods and you want to search for the company's policy, on handling damage deliveries. You should probably use the word package in your search rather than parcel and damaged, rather than broken. Since these keywords apply to more searches. Try to think of the most common words people use for different terms that are not company specific, since most search engines are structured based on common keywords and phrases. Use Boolean searches when possible. Boolean searches are conducted using the operators AND, NOT and OR. And searches will return results with two different keywords. For example, a Boolean search for car and insurance would return only results for car insurance, eliminating results for things like car ads and different types of insurance. Boolean searches with the not operator can be used to eliminate irrelevant results. For example, a Boolean search for package not missing, which show you only search results that didn't relate to missing packages. The or operator is used to broaden search results to include two different topics. For example, the Boolean or search for New York laws or Pennsylvania laws would return results for laws in both New York and Pennsylvania. You can also use the and dash symbols in some search engines as a substitute for the and and not operators. Not all search engines include support for Boolean searches, but most major search engines include support. It's important to check and make sure that the search engine or knowledge base includes support for the type of searches you want to conduct. Use quotation marks. If you're searching for a specific phrase and keep getting irrelevant results, it's a good idea to include quotation marks around the phrase you want to find. Adding in quotation marks will limit your search results to only resources that contain the exact phrase. For example, placing quotation marks around the phrase, appointment cancellation policy would return results only about your company's appointment cancellation policy, eliminating any results about other policies. Be aware of how the search engine you use functions. Most search engines use some degree of natural language processing, meaning they are structured to return results based on the ways that people talk and determine what's important. That's why you can search for a phrase like I want to see a scary movie near me and get results for horror movies nearby. The search engine realizes that the words that matter are scary movie and near me, and that when you entered scary movie, you really meant horror movie. While most popular search engines have this ability, some specialist search engines and knowledge bases may get confused by the additional words in such a query and may not understand that when you said scary, you meant horror. And the search engine would instead tell you that the movie Scary Movie was not screening near you. With more specialized search engines it's important that you use the exact word or phrase you think is most likely to return a relevant result and eliminate words like aunt and the to avoid confusion. Remember always be mindful while searching for information. Every search matters.