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Internet Search Engines

What Are Search Engines?

Internet search engines are huge searchable databases used to locate openly accessible Web sites on any topic.


Searching Tips:

There are generally two ways to search an engine, a category search or a keyword search.

Category Search:

One of the best ways to search the Internet is to use the categories developed by Yahoo. Using Yahoo's categories a searcher follows logical links by clicking on narrower and narrower topics, without entering anything in a search box or form. For example if you wanted to find information about Saturn cars in Yahoo, you would look at the broadest category related to your topic. Continue to select narrower categories until your subject is reached. The categories you would probably select would be:

  • Business and Economy
    • Companies
      • Automotive
        • Manufacturers
          • Saturn

The main advantages of using a category search include:

  • It will often result in a more controlled search with fewer results/hits
  • Usually the results will be more relevant  
    • You won't waste time looking through sites found on the planet Saturn

Keyword Search

In any engine, enter key words of your choosing  into a small search box. The search engine retrieves as many results/hits as it can find that contain the keyword(s) you have entered. Often hundreds or thousands of sites will be retrieved. The more words you add, the fewer results will be retrieved. It is often useful to search in more than one engine as each search engine is unique and will retrieve a somewhat different set of results. Be sure to ask for help at the Reference Desk at any time.

For best results with key word searches use advanced search techniques such as Boolean logic, phrase searching, and truncation. These are available in all of the major search engines, although they are represented somewhat differently in each. Use the online help and instructions for advanced or power searching in the engine you are using to maximize your search results. 

More Information on Search Engines

Much more detailed information on search engines, including comparisons, is available from these sites:


Meta Indexes:

Meta Indexes are search tools that allow you to search many Internet indexes simultaneously. This can be useful, though they may be slow and you sometimes lose the more sophisticated search features of the better indexes. Worth investigating! Try Dogpile, MetaCrawler, and WebCrawler.

Updated March 5, 2009 . Please send comments to Fran Zedney
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