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THE CURRENT VERSION IS SEY 2003


Internet Searching
by André le Roux
Dec. 2002

The Internet is without any doubt the largest source of information on just about any topic you can think of. The problem is that you can easily waste many hours sifting through irrelevant sites.

This little tutorial is about effective Internet searching - about cutting down your search time by searching smarter.

There are thousands of search engines and directories on the Net, so the first thing you have to do is decide which one to use… No, the answer is not always “Google”. You may end up using a directory instead – especially if you are researching a fairly broad topic.

INTERNET SEARCHING:
When And How To Use A Directory

Directories like DMOZ (http://dmoz.org) are usually human-created indexes of web sites neatly organized into topical categories. Because they are created by hand, they are usually much smaller than search engines. You might be thinking that search engine are therefore far better at finding relevant info, but…

Small can be good.

Let’s say we’re looking for something very general – educational PC games.

There must be thousands of sites mentioning “educational PC games”. Sifting through all that will take hours. But when you use a directory, someone else has already done the sifting. That’s what makes directories useful. There is almost always some kind of editorial selection process where sites are measured against a standard set by the directory. At one stage, the Yahoo editors where rumored to reject as many as 9 out of 10 site submissions.

Because of this, directories will have only a few sites per category, but they are very likely the best sites on the topic.

Let’s see if we can find educational PC games. I think I’ll head to

When you use the Yahoo search feature, the results you see are from Google. That’s not what we want, so we instead go to their category listings looking for something like “Computers”, “Software” or maybe even “Shopping”.

Yes, there it is. “Software”…

Under the main category, “Computers & Internet”, there’s a sub-category called “Software”. Now it’s just a matter of drilling down. When you click “Software” it shows its sub-categories. Under “Software” there is “Education”, under that there’s “Teaching & Learning Aids” and under that there’s “Games”. In this case the “Games” sub-directory is as far down as you can go. It shows only sites listed in that category – no further sub-categories.


INTERNET SEARCHING:
About Using Search Engines

This is where it gets more complicated, but stay with me. I’ll make you a super searcher if you do.

How much time do you spend searching during an average day? I probably use search engines a bit more than most people. I discovered that I spend about 2 hours a day finding information via search engines – correction… looking for information. Actually finding it is another thing altogether.

I decided to read up on search techniques and with some nifty new tricks chopped my search time (almost) in half. Unfortunately being good at searching costs me more time than it saves. Friends now phone me up – “André, hi! I need something on the diet of the Malaysian hunting spider for Billy’s science project. Any ideas?” Uh, yeah Bob, buy my book.

Seriously though, here’s what I learned about searching the web…

The first and most important thing in web searching is to use the RIGHT search engine. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t all index the entire web – even though they have billions of documents in their databases. Ok, we know that when looking for something fairly broad, directories are great. Now,
here’s…

INTERNET SEARCHING:
When To Use Which Search Engine

For broad, general searches, try http://www.google.com or http://www.teoma.com
For quality academic resources, try http://www.lii.org or http://www.academicinfo.net
For shopping, try http://www.yahoo.com or http://www.overture.com
For natural language questions, try http://www.ask.com
For expert links, try http://www.about.com or http://vlib.org
For news, try http://news.google.com
For government info (U.S.), try http://www.firstgov.gov
For images, try http://images.google.com or http://images.altavista.com or http://ditto.com
For multimedia, try http://www.alltheweb.com/advanced
For kids’ sites, try http://www.yahooligans.com
For queries containing stop words, e.g. “To be or not to be”, try http://altavista.com


INTERNET SEARCHING:
Boolean Searching

Most search engines allow you to use Boolean operators like AND, OR etc.

Imagine you’re ordering a ham sandwich. You want cheese but no tomato or unions. To a search engine you’d say: “ham sandwich” AND cheese AND NOT tomato AND NOT union

No, it’s not that easy. It would be if all search engines used the same Boolean operators, but they don’t.

Here’s what they do use:

INTERNET SEARCHING:
More On Internet Searching / Further Reading

Complete Planet
Complete Planet's search tutorial is the complete search tutorial. It is extremely thorough - providing more information than most of us need. Fortunately, they offer a clickable table of contents that makes it user-friendly.
http://www.completeplanet.com/Tutorials/Search/index.asp

Internet Search Strategies
By Greg R. Notess
Creative tips on how to use search engines more effectively
http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/strat/

Web Search Strategies
By Debbie Flanagan
A good, concise tutorial on using the correct strategies to find what you are looking for.
http://home.sprintmail.com/~debflanagan/main.html

Finding Information on the Internet
By Joe Barker
Another comprehensive tutorial. "This tutorial presents the substance of the Internet Workshops offered year-round by the Teaching Library at the University of California at Berkeley."
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/FindInfo.html

Lookoff.com Search Tutorial
An informative tutorial that's also fun to read.
http://www.lookoff.com/tactics/index.php3

Search Engine Math
By Danny Sullivan
Forget power searching. Don't worry about learning to do a "Boolean" search. All most people need to know is a little basic "search engine math" in order to improve their results.
http://searchenginewatch.com/facts/math.html

Lies, Damned Lies, & Web Pages
By Chris Sherman
The Web is full of true lies — or are they false truths? Here's how to cut through the dross to find the real gold on the Web.
http://websearch.about.com/library/weekly/aa081099.htm

Lesson One: What is The Web? Why Can’t I Find What I Want?
Lesson 1 of 6 on searching the web. Highly recommended.
http://www.thelearningsite.net/cyberlibrarian/searching/lesson1.html

Seven Habits Of Effective Searchers
By Chris Sherman
Searching the Web isn't hard. Finding what you're looking for is the challenge.
http://websearch.about.com/library/weekly/aa010199.htm

Super Searchers' Search Secrets
By Chris Sherman
"Super Searcher." The phrase conjures images of an action movie protagonist who sits down at a strange computer, taps in a command like "access top-secret national security archives," and is immediately rewarded with a cascade of sensitive data scrolling up the screen. But that only happens in Hollywood — never on the Internet. Right? Well, not exactly.
http://websearch.about.com/library/weekly/aa010899.htm

Search Engine Features For Searchers
By Danny Sullivan,
Chart to help you search effectively. At a glance.
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/facts/ataglance.html

Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial
From UC Berkerley Library. A very comprehensive, award-winning tutorial on Internet searching.
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/FindInfo.html


Search Engine Book: Search Engine Year BookThis page is based on information contained in the Search Engine Yearbook 2003. For more detailed search engine information & help, please refer to the current version of the book.

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