One way to improve your web searching is to use advanced search screens.
When you type a bunch of words into a search box, most search engines assume, with a few exceptions, that you are looking for pages with all of those words. Advanced searches allow you to fine-tune things. Most major search engines, including Yahoo!, Microsoft's Bing, and Ask.com, have advanced search screens; we'll use Google's as an example.
Advanced searches generally allow you to do the following things:
Let's say we were trying to find information about the income gap between women and men in the United States. Since "income" might also be expressed as "wages" or "salary," we might want to include those words in an advanced search. We could also limit the search to educational sites in an effort to get more reliable information. Google also allows us to limit the region of the web page to the United States. Here is what the search screen would look like (click the image for a larger view):
The results page gives us several good options. We might want to do another one with .gov in the domain, or leave the domain unspecified to find more.
Advanced search screens give you some flexibility, but you'll have even more if you type directly into the search box. This can get complicated, but if you like advanced searching it will be worth your while to try. Search engines usually feature links to "help" pages; these will give you tips. Google's Cheat Sheet is also a handy tool, as is a more thorough guide from Googleguide.com.