How to Use Search Engines

Searching is used when you don't know the exact address of a particular site, or if you need information on a particular subject for your essay, term paper, or research paper assignment. To search for information on the Internet you can use either a search engine or a subject directory.

A search engine is a tool that helps you locate information on the Internet. A search engine's database is created by software programs known as robots or spiders. These software programs scan the Web and collect information on websites. When you enter a keyword or phrase into a search engine, the computer will return a list of sites or "hits" related to the keywords entered. In general, search engine databases tend to be comprehensive in scope and may include thousands or even millions of websites. Alta Vista is a large, popular search engine.

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Special Thanks to Walt Howe and Hope N. Tillman for permission to use their chart.
ENGINE Pages
Indexed
Search
Types
Search
Refine
Search
Limits
Search
Extras
AltaVista 140M +/-
form
Boolean
plain lang
by topic fields
language
date
translation
wild cards
proximity
Infoseek 30M +/-
form
limit to
reviewed
sites
categories
fields
 
Northern
Light
96M +/-
form
Boolean
by folders language
fields
date
sp collection
wild cards
Lycos 30M +/-
form
Boolean
similar
pages
fields
categories
language
proximity
HotBot 110M +/-
form
Boolean
  fields
date
by language
wild cards
Excite 50M +/-
form
Boolean
more like
this
categories thesaurus
MultiCrawl 100M+ simple AND     Will search all of the above.
Google 25M
(will
grow)
simple AND
(use + to
force
stopwords)
    next
generation
relevance
© 1998 Walt Howe and Hope N. Tillman
(last revised November 3, 1998)  - Copied with permission .

1. Search Types.

  • +/- refers to the sytem where + marks "must have" terms, and - marks "must not have" terms.
  • Form refers to a structured form with pull down entries to categorize and limit a search
  • Boolean refers to full Boolean AND, OR, NOT and parentheses or symbolic equivalents. If you are not familiar with Boolean searching, see our Guide to Boolean Searching.
  • Plain Lang is short for plain language queries in sentence form.

2. Search Refine. Refers to methods used to improve a search after initial results are returned.

3. Search Limits.

  • Fields refers to the ability to restrict searches to particular URLs, domains, linking sites, countries, or categories like graphics and audio files.
  • Language refers to the ability to limit search results by language.
  • Categories refers to the ability to limit searches to a particular category from a listed set of categories. This often limits the search to only those pages that have been reviewed and categorized, not the complete set.

4. Search Extras

  • Wild cards refers to the ability to add a * to a word stem to allow different word endings or a ? to represent a missing letter.
  • Proximity refers to the ability to search for adjacent terms or terms within a certain range of words. Nearly every search engine allows denoting consecutive words in phrases by using double quote marks around them.


POPULAR SEARCH SITES

alt MultiCrawl
A one stop shop to search all the major browsers including webcrawler, AltaVista and many others in one fair swoop.
alt AltaVista
Claims to search over 100 million web pages and the full-text of over 13,000 news groups. Browse by subject, or limit your search to a specific language. Can also request system to translate web pages from English to French, German to English, etc.
alt Excite
PC Magazine calls this 'the best general purpose Web search site' (December 1996). It delivers a high percentage of relevant hits and users are able to find 'More like this'.
alt Hot Bot
A full text search of over 36 million Web documents. Fast and easy to use. Updated weekly.
alt InfoSeek
Searches the Web, Usenet Newsgroups, Company Directory, e-mail addresses, news stories within the past month, and Web FAQs.
alt Lycos
The Catalog of the Internet.
alt Northern Light Search
A search service that not only gives you the 25 strongest hits for your search terms, but it also clusters the rest into "Custom Search Folders". These are divided under subject, type, source, and language. Northern Light also lets you search through their "special collection" of over 1 million articles from journals, books, databases, etc, which are not generally available anywhere else on the Web. There is a cost involved in retrieving these articles.
alt WebCrawler
A fast search by document title and CONTENT.
alt Yahoo!
A good search service, and excellent subject guide to the Internet.

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META SEARCH SITES

alt Dogpile
A great multi-engine search site. Searches the Web plus Usenet and FTP sites. Extremely fast.
alt Metacrawler
A great system! Searches nine different services i.e. Open Text, Lycos, Webcrawler, Infoseek, Excite, Inktomi, Alta Vista, Yahoo, and Galaxy, and organizes the results into a uniform format for display. Fast and easy to use.

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MULTIPLE SEARCH SERVICES

alt Beaucoup Search Engines
Beaucoup has more than 1,000 listings of engines, directories and indices across the world.
alt The Complete Search Engine Index
An alphabetical index of over 70 different search engines.
alt Internet Search Tools (Library of Congress)
Search Tools are divided into such categories as Multiple Resource Types, World Wide Web by Subject, World Wide Web by Geographic Location, Directories of E-mail Addresses, FTP Sites and Archives, etc.
altSearch.com
Provides more than 100 ways to search the Web using specialty searches.

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OTHER SEARCH SERVICES

alt Deja News - The Source for Internet News Groups
The "largest collection of indexed archived Usenet News available anywhere."
alt Delphi FAQ: How to subscribe, unsubscribe, and search e-mail discussion lists.
Answers questions about what lists are available, the commands needed for the various types of lists, and how to search their archives.