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Searching the Internet

All search engines are not created equal.  No single engine can index the entire web.  To add insult to injury the most popular search engine,  is not a search engine but a directory.

The main ways to search the web are

Search engines--keyword that triggers the index of sites that have been compiled by a program known as a worm.  Top search engines include:  AltaVista, HotBot, Excite, Lycos, InfoSeek.  Search engines that search other search engines are called metasearch engines.  Examples of these are Beaucoup, WebCrawler, Dogpile.

Directory--man-made list of links that are sorted by topic and stored in a huge computer.  These also can be accessed through keyword searches.  Examples of directories include:  Yahoo, Education-World, Magellan Internet guide (, The Awesome Library (

No directory or search engine is perfect.  Search engines catalog based on frequency counts for words on selected sites.  These become the keywords under which the site is indexed.  Unscrupulous webmasters frequently use words that will trigger the engine to index the site even though it has nothing to do with a logical search on the keyword.  

Again all search engines are not equal.  Never rely on one search engine only.  A comprehensive search would result from using several search engines and directories.

Searching Tips

  • Read "Search tips" or "help" if offered at a particular site.   You may want to print these out to use as a quick reference.
  • Use Boolean search tools (AND, OR,  NOT, + , -, etc..) whenever possible.

Tricks of Searching

   AND (+) -  only returns pages with both terms on them, this limits the search.

    OR-  returns every page with either term, this broadens the search.

    NOT (-) -   returns the pages with one and not the other term on them, this limits the search.

  • Case matters--use lowercase.  engines will return both proper and common uses of term.  For general words, use all lower-case.  Capitalize proper names.  
  • Use lots of bookmarks.  It is always easier to determine if you will use a site after you have the change.  It is often hard to find a site later that you wish you had bookmarked.
  • Don't wait for the graphics.  If the text is not on target the graphics will likely not improve the site.
  • Share.  Tell others when you find a great site.
  • Use singular nouns rather than plural.  This will give you the greatest returns on your search.
  • Make sure that all words are spelled correctly. 
  • If you enclose phrases in quotes, this may help limit your search.  Example: "Internet lessons" will only return documents in which this exact phrase appears, and not all documents in which either of the words "Internet" or "lessons" appears.      " "--treats the enclosed words as a single term.  Use when you want specifics "Standards of Learning"
  • Use the "*" operator for strings.  Examples: micro* matches microscope and microcomputer.  * wild card--used to complete a term.  Example:  educat* would return education, educator, educational, educate

Always Remember

  • Use more specific Educational search engines when you want to find something that your students can use.
  • Use one or two search engines frequently as you get to know them well.  This will help you find your information efficiently.
  • Keep in mind that information found on the web is not always correct or valid.  Be sure to evaluate the site for credibility.

Where can I go for more information?

Search Engine Watch


Specialized Searches

There are specialized engines that focus on small subsets of information found on the web.  

WhoWhere ( address and phone numbers

Yahoo 411 ( people search

Research-It! ( searchable dictionaries, thesauruses, quotation databases, area codes, 800-number directories, global currency converter, FedEx package tracking and more for free.

Shareware ( shareware programs

CNET ( search libraries of public domain software and shareware

This page was updated on:  04/10/02