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Searching the Web


The Internet contains so much information that it can be overwhelming. There is no single organizing structure (such as the Online Catalog), but there are many search tools and directories that can help you find the specific information that you need. Below are searching guidelines, definitions and a grid of search engines, directories, and meta search tools for general searching.

Effective Searching

Search tools (such as Yahoo!) are specialized programs that look through the world’s web pages for the occurrence of a specified word or subject. Most search tools offer users more than one way to locate needed information. Depending on your topic and what you need to know, you may end up using a variety of these search methods. The basics of performing a database search are the same, whether you are using a stand-alone CD-ROM database or the Internet. If you know how to perform a basic computerized search and how to use HELP files, you’ll do fine. As you gain experience with different search tools and databases, you will figure out which ones are best for which topics, and develop your own favorites.

Search Methods

Browsing through sites listed in the subject categories of a database or search tool. This is helpful if you have a general topic, such as “Health” or “Psychology.” Some search tools also have links to specialized services such as “RoadMaps” or “Stocks/Companies.” Perform a word or phrase search if you have a more specific topic, such as”AIDS treatment.” Enter a Website’s URL (if you know it) to go directly to a site when you want information from that site.

Search Tips

Be as specific as possible. Example: Lamborghini (instead of sports car) Check your spelling. If you don’t get sufficiently useful results, refine your search. Use the Options or Advanced Search functions. Broaden or narrow your search terms, using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT). Look at the contents of a document that is close to what you want to get ideas for more appropriate search terms. Use a different search tool. Some sites perform full-text searches while others search for keywords in the name, URL and description only.

Online Searching Glossary

Boolean search: Uses boolean operators (and, or , not) to specify desired results. AND narrows, OR broadens, NOT excludes. Some search tools use plus (+) and minus (-) marks instead of AND & NOT.

Keyword search: Looks for the occurrence of one word or a combination of words in title or other indexed fields.

Nesting: Technique of grouping search terms in a particular order using specific punctuation and/or abbreviations. Example: accidents AND (car or automobile)

Phrase search: Allows searcher to place an entire phrase in quotation marks for retrieval of citations which contain the phrase exactly as entered. Example: “space shuttle”

Scoring (ranking): Results in most search engines are listed in hierarchical order by relevance to the search terms, usually with the most relevant at the top.

Truncation: Allows the use of a wildcard symbol in order to retrieve different forms or spelling variations of a word. Common ones are *, #, and ? Example: econ* to get economic, economics, economy, economist, etc.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator, a website’s address on the Internet. For example, is the Library’s website address.

Acknowledgement to E.Geringer for the excellent infomation on searching.