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Internet Search Engines

Internet Search Skills


The Internet offers access to more information that any of us can imagine. It can be a good thing, but there are problems. In the process of searching for information, it is often a struggle to find information relevant to your topic. To avoid wasting time you can do one important thing - plan your search and use proper techniques to eliminate irrelevant subject matter.

Search Engines vs. Web Directory

The easiest way to approach the decision of where to search first, is to look at the scope of what you are looking for on the Internet. If you have a broad topic, it is best to go to a web directory such as Yahoo.

When your topic is quite specific, search engines such as Google, Excite or Webcrawler will be the way to go.

Search Techniques

It is important to refine your topic to eliminate unwanted information. Most sites offer two types of searches: basic and advanced/refined. For most students, the basic search will suffice. With the basic search it is possible to search more than one word at a time, and exclude words from the search. Generally search engines allow quotations to be used to indicate words or phrases that belong together (ie: "public schools"). Capital letters should be used when searching proper names and places.

Boolean Operators

No, this is not a foreign language. Boolean Operators allow us to refine a search using logical terms such as AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, FOLLOWED BY, etc.

  • Using Boolean ANDwill ensure that all the terms you specify in the search must appear in the document, (ie: "public" and "schools".
  • Ensure that at least one of the terms you use in the search will appear in the document by using Boolean OR, (ie: "curriculum" or "syllabus". This is good to use if you don't want to rule out certain information.
  • Use Boolean NOT if you want to exclude specific words from your search (ie: "schools" not "private". This search would then exclude private schools.
Smart Searching Strategies
  • Know where to look first. A search engine maynot always be the best way to start looking.
  • Be specific when choosing keywords (ie: don't use "schools" as a keyword if you need informatin about public schools in California.
  • Refine your search by using refining options such as Boolean Operators (and, not, or).
One more thing...

Remember to write down the websites you utilize along with the date it was accessed. This will help when preparing your Works Cited page. An easy way to do this is to print the page from the website, the website is printed on the bottom of the page along with the date. There are times when you only want a short selection, just highlight and choose "print selection" from the print menu and the website and selection will be printed for you.