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Internet Searching

How to start a Web net search?

Using Internet Explorer:

  • Select the net search button on the Internet Explorer tool bar.

  • Use file open and type in the name of your search engine site.



In Netscape

  • Select the net search button on the Netscape tool bar.

  • Pull down the directory menu and select Internet search.

  • File, Open (Location, Page) and type in your address.

How do search engines work?

Web search engines use automatic computer programs that send queries out over the Internet to check every Web page they encounter.  These programs gather URLs and create indexes, which may then be searched by key words.

When you enter a term, the search engine will check its index and return the web sites that match your search term.  The result is usually displayed in a list; often ranked by how many times the search term appears,

Many engines provide a numerical score with the highest score given to the web sites that most closely match the desired terms.  Scores are often expressed as a percent (i.e. 97%).

How to search the Web?

Two things are very important to create an effective and efficient search on the Web:

       Choice of search term(s) and the way you enter them,

       Choice of search engines

The more accurate the search terms the better the search result.

To find the documents most relevant to what you need, construct your search term as precisely as you can.  In Alta Vista, the most popular search engine, the documents will be ranked so that the ones matching the most words and phrases in the term are listed first.


Search term: american indian language

Result:  word count:  indian 395195, language 2048030, american 2654433

100000 documents found containing as many of these words as possible in both upper and lower case.

This search is much too broad.  Of the first ten documents found the first few appear relevant, but the rest are documents about languages in the Asian subcontinent.  Obviously something needs to be done to make this search more effective.  Quotation marks can be used to link words into a phrase that must appear in the document.  Also, the (*) symbol can be used to search for the plural or singular of a word.

Revised search term:  "american indian" language*

Result:  word count:  american indian 30000, language* 2050463.  20000 documents found

The documents found in this revised search now are relevant to information about American Indian languages, which enable you to further limit your search.  Now that you have more information, you could search for a specific language such as ojibwe, mentioned in one of the documents.

Now you want to use the (+) symbol to include it in your search.

Further reviews search term:  language* +ojibw+

Result:  word count:  ojibw* 3625, language* 2050463. 1000 documents found.

Now you have a search that is on target.

How to select a search engine?

If you select search from Explorer, you are randomly given one of the search engines listed in the graphic.



If you select search from Netscape, you are randomly given one of the search engines listed in the graphic pictured to the left.

You can also select from a list if you do not want to use the random choice.

What search engine should I use?

Each search engine works in a different way.  Some engines scan for information in the title or header of the document; others look at the bold headings on the page for the information.  The fact that search engines gather information differently means that each will probably yield different results.  It is always wise to try more than one search engine when searching the web.

Look at the "american indian" search again.

Search Engine

Search Term




american indians

49 matches

Subject directory



american indians


Meta search engine, searches multiple engines and gives results from each.


american indians

25267 relevant pages

Database--search by keyword and subject and provides rating system for results

Yahoo is a subject directory and will typically not list many pages as other engines do.  The pages that it lists, however, will usually be on the subject or topic that you seek.  Yahoo is one of the most popular and oldest of the search engines on the Web.  It is an excellent place to start your search, especially if you are not quite sure what your key words should be.

Lycos is a fast index of isolated web pages that haven't been categorized by a human hand.  Its keyword searches can find obscure references on thousands of web pages in a few seconds.

Dogpile is a meta search engine.  It searches other search engines and returns the results according to the engines that it used.  It is slower than either of the others, but will often provide the most accurate information as the same "Finds" will appear on multiple engines and will probably be the most on target selection.

Research on Web searching and search engines

The following online article provides links to search engines and some other links to information concerning the web and searching the Web.

St. Johnís University Library at

This site provides information on individual search engines and links to search tools.

General Tips for Searching the Web

Although there are any number of search tools, there are some general rules that may be helpful to consider no matter what tool you use.

       Use lower case for search terms.  If terms are entered capitalized, the result will return only items with that exact spelling.  Capitalize names of people and places such as [Bill Clinton] and [British Columbia] to limit your search to these specific items.

       Use specific terms.  If you use [school] the search will return with thousands of far-reached matches.  The term can be replaced with more precise terms such as [university] or [k-12].

       If you get too many matches on your original search term, try to refine your search by using Boolean operators such as [and], [or], and [not].  When multiple words are included as search terms, each search engine defaults to either a Boolean [and] or a Boolean [or].  You should know a search engine defaults.  Such information can be found in the outline description of the engine.

       If your search is for an acronym, try searching for it twice.  For example NEA or National Education Association.  If your search is in English, search for both British and American spellings.  For example you could search for theater or theatre.

       Use singular terms instead of plural terms.  If you use the term "teacher" most search engines will also find matches on "teachers" but not always vise versa.

       Use at least two or three search terms.  By using more keywords to narrow your search, you can locate documents that fit your information needs more precisely.

       Be specific.  Try to pick words that are unique to the topic you're investigating.  If you are looking for information about the Virginia state motto, enter all three words in the search.  If you enter Virginia motto, HotBot will give you pages that discuss mottoes, but not the state motto.

       Use exact phrases.  You can narrow your search by requesting that your search terms appear in order as an exact phrase.  Select the (") mark to indicate that the words enclosed are to be considered together exactly as entered.  This will produce many less matches and will often give you exactly what you need.

       Always continue to limit your search.  If one million files are found, you can get to a more manageable number by adding additional keywords to describe what you need to find.  Remember these search engines do not all define the exact same web sites.  Use more than one engine to be sure to get a good look at what is available. 

This page was updated on:  04/10/02