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Looking for information, but found nothing? Or, on the contrary, got too many results back, so that you have to filter the relevant information yourself? In this article, we give some tips and tricks to effectively use the search engine.

There are several ways to search for information. We differentiate between three strategies:

  • Top-down. In this strategy, you start with a general concept or topic and then you narrow the search until the right information is found. This strategy works best if you are interested in general information about a topic, or if you do not exactly know at the beginning what you are looking for. For example, you start your search with risk analysis.
  • Bottom-up. Here, you begin with a query that is formulated as detailed as possible. When the query does not lead to the desired result, you can broaden the search terms. Use this strategy when you are looking for specific information about a certain topic. Example: you begin with the search terms position paper iia resourcing alternatives internal audit.
  • The golden mean. This strategy starts with two terms, and on the basis of the first results, you decide whether to narrow or to broaden the search. E.g. you start with the terms IFRS pension.

Before we discuss the several search methods, we will give some tips about the use of punctuation marks. A space is used to separate different search terms or commands. Other punctuation marks, like the minus sign, the colon and the quotation mark, follow directly before or after the search term or command.

If a search results in too many hits, it may be useful to limit the query. This can be achieved in several ways.

Filter by category

After you entered a search term, you will see tabs with the names of categories above the search results. Examples of categories are standards and norms, professional associations and supervisory authorities. You can filter the search results by clicking on one of the tabs. To return to all results, simply click on the first tab (All).

Searching for more terms

More terms in a search will limt the number of results. Choose terms which are in line with each other, like synonyms or specific instances of general concepts. E.g.:

contingency fire

It is not necessary to use special characters such as the ampersand (&) or the plus sign (+).

Placing terms in the right context

By using more search terms, you can also place a word in the right context. The word controller for example, is used to describe an employee, but it also refers to a computer device. Compare the results of the following searches:

controller accounting


controller device

Moreover, the same word can exist in more languages, like brand in English (in the sense of a branded article or product), German and Dutch (meaning fire). To search only for the word in English, add a synonym or siminar term:

brand marketing

It is also possble to add the type of document you are looking for, such as an article, a handbook or standard. Put the case that you are looking for a handbook about information security:

handbook information security

Exclude search terms

With the minus sign you can exclude a term from the results. This method is useful if a word has different meanings and you are only interested in a particular context. Example: you would like to know more about the tasks a controller performs in an organisation, but you find primarily information about controllers as computer devices. In this case, use the following search:

task controller -device

Searching for phrases

With quotation marks you can search for complete sentences or phrases. This is useful when you precisely know what you are looking for. Suppose that you attended an interesting presentation and you would like to have a digital version of the slides. Query:

"spreadsheet auditing for free"

This method allows to search for citations too. Terms wich consist of two words, such as management control, do not have to be comprised by quotation marks.

Searching by location

If you would like to know what a particular organisation or institution has published about a topic, you can use the site-command. For example, you are looking for publications of the Bank of England about Mifid:


The site-command is also suited for finding out how a term is interpreted in a certain country. In order to do this, type after site: the code for the respective country, as shown in the table mentioned below:

 country  code
 Austria  .at
 Belgium  .be
 Europe  .eu
 Germany  .de
 Ireland  .ie
 The Netherlands  .nl
 Switzerland  .ch
 United Kingdom  .uk



Searching by filetype

With the command filetype you can filter the search results by the type of file which contains the information you are looking for. In the table below some well-known filetypes are shown.

 text documents   pdf, txt, doc, docx, odt 
 spreadsheets  xls, xlsx, ods
 presentations  ppt, pptx, odp


independence filetype:pdf

If a query results in only a few hits, you could try the following options. First, you can reverse the methods to narrow queries, such as searching for fewer terms, not using the minus sign, quotation mark or the site-command. Besides, it is possible to search for synonyms and similar terms.

Searching for synonyms

A specific term which is not used often, will probably lead to just a few hits. You could try to include a synonym or similar term with the operator '|' (vertical bar). For example, you would like to know more about a letter of comfort, but you are not satisfied with the results. In this case, try the following:

"letter of comfort" | "comfort letter"

With this command, you can perform queries in different languages too:

"letter of comfort" | patronatserklärung

The accuracy of the results can be improved by combining the search methods discussed above. We give some examples:

Searching for documents that contain two phrases:

"letter of comfort" | "letter of representation"

Searching for documents containing at least the word strategy and the words risk or threat or both:

strategy | risk | threat

Searching for information security in pages from the the United Kingdom, without the word management:

information security -management

You know that certain information does exist, but you cannot find it with the search engine. There are several causes for this to happen:

  • The site is not included in the search engine, the filters for the web site are configured wrong or the site is weighted too low, so that its information is shown at the bottom of the results. Solution: use the contact form to inform us.
  • The information cannot be found by the search engine because the owner of the site did not give his permission.