Lesson 6

When you do not know the URL and have no way of guessing what it might be or you want to search for many web pages on a topic, the next step is to use a search engine.

Search engines are useful for:

  • topical keyword searches
  • locating websites for particular organizations
  • finding a specific document when you don't know who might have posted it on the web
Search engines can also be frustrating because they can provide thousands of results, many of which are not even related to your topic. To make your search as narrow as possible familiarize yourself with the special search features of each search engine you use.

Common search features include:

  • Search engine math: +oboe +history requires both words to be present in the webpages retrieved; "oboe history" requires the two words to appear next to each other.
  • Know which databases automatically "or" or "and" words together. In some databases oboe history would automatically require both words to be present; in other databases this search would retrieve any record that had at least one of the words present.
  • Use Boolean search phrases
Check with each search engine's help screen to see which features are available. Here is a brief list of search features for some popular search engines:

Search Engine Automatic OR Automatic AND Search Engine Math Boolean
AllTheWeb N/A * * *
Alta Vista N/A * * *
Google N/A * * *
HotBot N/A * * *
Lycos N/A * * *
Yahoo N/A * * *

Each search engine may give you different results, so if you do not find what you need with one search engine, try the same search in another one.

Web sites recommended by librarians are linked to the library's Subject Guides and Online Reference pages.

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