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Search Basics


One of the easiest ways to start searching for information on the Internet is to use a Search Engine.

Search engines are online utilities that allow you to search databases of Web information to find information on a particular topic. You can use a word or words that represent your topic, such as travel or travel tips. These words are called keywords and may be used with search engines to find information.

Some examples of search engines:

When you enter keywords in the search engine, you are conducting a query. The search engine looks through its database of pages and then displays its results. The results page is a listing of links to Web pages that include the keyword or keywords you entered. Each Web page that matches your query is called a hit. Here is a web page that describes strategies for conducting effective searches. If you are frustrated by Internet searches that return millions of unrelated pages or searches that fail to produce any useful information, Step 2 of the U.C. Berkeley Library's Five Step Search Strategy provides a wealth of ways you can become a more savvy searcher.

The trick to conducting effective research on the Internet is to quickly find the information you need without having to wade through page after page of irrelevant text. Browsing is a means of looking for information by following random links from one web page to another. Start by defining the subject you wish to research, then make a list of words that describe that topic. You can conduct a more focused search through the use of keywords or phrases.

The use of search limiters such as plus signs and quotation marks allow you to force a search engine to search for your keywords as a phrase (using quotation marks around the phrase) or as terms that must be present in a web page for it to appear in a list of "hits". Another way to limit your search is through the use of "Boolean Searching." The following interactive Boolean Search Tutorial will help you learn how to conduct more efficient, less time-consuming Internet research.

When seeking online data, it helps to think in terms of how much information you need and how you intend to use it. For example, if you are looking for information about local movie theaters and films that are currently showing, you would use a different set of online tools and search strategies than if you are looking for information on a topic assigned as a homework assignment by your instructor.

A search directory organizes information by main topic and subtopics. Unlike the search engine that relies on Web robots and automated programs to create a database of Web sites, Web directories are constructed by groups of people who decide which Web sites should be added to their directory. You use a search directory to find information by drilling down through the various levels of topics and subtopics. You work your way from a broad subject category through subcategory levels until you locate the Web site containing the information you want. In other words, if you wanted to find information about California Virtual Campus, you would begin by selecting the subject education, then distance education, then California Virtual Campus.

Here are some examples of search directories:

Meta-search engines allow you to search multiple databases with a single search. Some examples include:

Natural language search engines allow you to perform concept-based searches. These searches will return only those Web pages containing information relevant to the topic even if the words it finds in those pages donít exactly match the keywords you originally used for the search. Some examples include:

Once you have learned how to translate your topic into a series of key words or phrases, this technique can be used to efficiently find information in any type of online database or electronic resource.

Web Author: Jennifer Lagier Fellguth
Copyright ©2007 by Jennifer Lagier Fellguth - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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