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Using Web Resources

Databases vs. Web
It is important to understand that the information found in databases such as Academic Search Complete or JSTOR is not the same as the information found on the Web. A great deal of time, effort, and money is spent to purchase, collect, and organize the scholarly data found in these and other databases provided by Libraries. Because of its free and open nature, there is little to no organization involved in Web information resources. The Web often provides useful and reliable information, however, it must be used with discretion.

Search Engines
Search engines are the most common tools people use to search the Web. They are indexed by computerized "spider" programs that crawl through the Web searching for new Web pages to add to their listings. Most general search engines have millions of indexed pages which are not organized into any discernible order. This often leads to the returning of numerous records which may have nothing to do with your original search. Therefore, search engines are best used for specific references, general facts and information, or information about specific people or organizations. Examples of general search engines include:

Subject Directories

If you already know the subject matter that you need to research, it might be better to start searching with a subject directory. Subject directories are indexed by the same "spider" programs as general search engines, however they are organized by human beings into subject specific hierarchies . Subject directories emphasize "quality over quantity", therefore there are smaller numbers of Web pages listed in subject directories than search engines. Examples of subject directories include:


Basic Search Engine Tips

Using a Search Engine
Is there a trick to using search engines? Most definitely! Although most search engines basically function the same way, there are many differences among them.

Some search engines allow only full text searching (searching through the entire text of a document) and while others also offer field searching (searching only a specific field within a document, such as the title or author field).

Some search engines offer only basic search commands, yet still others allow you to develop complex searches.
Regardless of the search engine, the four part process below will help you to develop effective queries and retrieve better results.

Step one: Selecting Keywords

Keywords are essentially the terms you use to ask your question. Keywords are the most important part of your search and the first thing you should check if a search is not working.

Step Two: Building a Search Query

A search query or query is another name for the request or question you submit to a search engine. Once you have selected your keywords, it is time to tell the search engine exactly what type of information you are looking for.


Information with both the words Dog and Cat
Information with either the words Dog or Cat
Information with only the words Dogs not Cat
Fuzzy Boolean

Google normally searches for pages that contain all the words you type in the search box, but if you want pages that have one term or another (or both), use the OR operator -- or use the "|" symbol (pipe symbol) to save you a keystroke. [dumb | little | man]

If you want to search for an exact phrase, use quotes. ["dumb little man"] will only find that exact phrase. [dumb "little man"] will find pages that contain the word dumb and the exact phrase "little man".

If you don't want a term or phrase, use the "-" symbol. [-dumb little man] will return pages that contain "little" and "man" but that don't contain "dumb".

Similar terms
Use the "~" symbol to return similar terms. [~dumb little man -dumb] will get you pages that contain "funny little man" and "stupid little man" but not "dumb little man".

The "*" symbol is a wildcard. This is useful if you're trying to find the lyrics to a song, but can't remember the exact lyrics. [can't * me love lyrics] will return the Beatles song you're looking for. It's also useful for finding stuff only in certain domains, such as
educational information: ["dumb little man" research *.edu].

Advanced search
If you can't remember any of these operators, you can always use Google's advanced search.

Use the "define:" operator to get a quick definition. [define:dumb] will give you a whole host of definitions from different sources, with links.

One of the handiest uses of Google, type in a quick calculation in the search box and get an answer. It's faster than calling up your computer's calculator in most cases. Use the +, -, *, / symbols and parentheses to do a simple equation.

This little-known feature searches for a range of numbers. For example, ["best books 2002..2007] will return lists of best books for each of the years from 2002 to 2007 (note the two periods between the two numbers).


This will show all the links OUT from a certain domain. You can also use this in the following way: 

linkfromdomain:lifehacker.com linkfromdomain:dumblittleman.com 
this will show all the domains linked from BOTH lifehacker and dumblitteman.... 

Use the "site:" operator to search only within a certain website. [site:dumblittleman.com leo] will search for the term "leo" only within this blog.

The "link:" operator will find pages that link to a specific URL. You can use this not only for a main URL but even to a specific page. Not all links to an URL are listed, however.

Vertical search
Instead of searching for a term across all pages on the web, search within a specialized field. Google has a number of specific searches, allowing you to search within blogs, news, books, and much more:
Blog Search
Book Search
Code Search
Patent Search
Product Search
Use the "movie:" operator to search for a movie title along with either a zip code or U.S. city and state to get a list of movie theaters in the area and show times.

The "music:" operator returns content related to music only.

Unit converter
Use Google for a quick conversion, from yards to meters for example, or different currency: [12 meters in yards]

Types of numbers
Google algorithms can recognize patterns in numbers you enter, so you can search for:

Telephone area codes
Vehicle ID number (US only)
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) equipment numbers (US only)
UPC codes
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airplane registration number (US only)
Patent numbers (US only)
Even stock quotes (using the stock symbol) or a weather forecast regarding the next five days
File types
If you just want to search for .PDF files, or Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets, for example, use the "filetype:" operator.

Location of term
By default, Google searches for your term throughout a web page. But if you just want it to search certain locations, you can use operators such as "inurl:", "intitle:", "intext:", and "inanchor:". Those search for a term only within the URL, the title,
the body text, and the anchor text (the text used to describe a link).

Cached pages
Looking for a version of a page the Google stores on its own servers? This can help with outdated or update pages. Use the "cached:" operator.

Step Three: Evaluating your search results

Once you have constructed and submitted your search query, it is time to evaluate your results. Most search engines generally list hits (items that match your search query) based on relevancy.

Relevancy is the percentage of how well a web page matches your search query. Some search engines will only give you the top fifty hits returned by your query, other will give you all the hits that matched. Sometime this number can be very large, even reaching into the millions. There are three things to look for when evaluating your search results.

If you don't find what you are looking for in the first two pages of results try using a different query. Most likely you need to choose different keywords.

Look through your results for other keywords that might help further narrow you search. For instance if your search on sewing careers brings up results with the word seamstress, than you might also want to use seamstress as a keyword.

Look for keywords you may want to exclude. If you are looking for information on Tigers, but your results include hits about Tiger Woods you may want to exclude the keyword woods.
Step Four: Rebuilding your Query
After performing the first three steps, if you have not found what you are looking for, you will want to go back to step one and rebuild your query.

Don't be discouraged, your first few searches may seem awkward and slow. But with a little practice, your searches will become faster and more precise.





Read over the HELP screen of each search engine you use.

One of the main advantages of using search engines is their ease of use. However, each search engine has different options for searching. Therefore, always read the HELP screen and guides offered by each search engine.

Use quotations where applicable.

Most search engines support the use of quotations. When looking for a specific name, title, organization, or phrase encase them in quotations for more accurate results. For example:

"Fall of the House of Usher" - title

"quoth the raven nevermore" - quote

"Edgar Allen Poe" - name

"The Academy of American Poets" - organization

Use Boolean searching.
Use Boolean searching if there is more than one keyword, term, or concept needed. Boolean terms are conjunctions such as AND, OR, NOT which are used to used to connect concepts and construct search statements. Most search engines do not require the use of AND; by default all searches are AND searches

The search engine Google.com uses the symbol – in place of NOT.

For example:

• Presidents speeches

• "Presidential speeches" Lincoln – Roosevelt

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