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Search Tools
List of Search Engines
MetaSearch Tools
Subject Directories/Virtual Libraries

Tips to Effective Internet Searching

Need to Cite a Web Page?

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Introduction: The Nature of Web Information

The web is a very interesting medium for research:

633.gif (1461 bytes) Anyone can publish "information."
633.gif (1461 bytes) There is no complete list of web sites.
633.gif (1461 bytes) There are no official organizers, catalogers, or evaluators.
633.gif (1461 bytes) Sites constantly change; new sites are constantly created; and sites often disappear.
633.gif (1461 bytes) Finally, there are no standards for web search tools.

Novice researches sometimes make false assumptions about information on the web:

"You can find it faster." "The information is more current." "The information is just as reliable."

Searching is not evaluating. Given the nature of web information, it's vital to evaluate the web pages you dig up. See Evaluating Resources for things to consider when evaluating a web page.

Search Tools

What they are:

Search Engines use "robots" to automatically record the words on millions of web pages.
Because the web is so large and changes so fast, the search engines' databases are always incomplete and out of date.

There's little added value -- expect for the ranking algorithm, it's up to you to refine your search and to evaluate the sites in the list of results.

How search engines work:

A robot (also called a spider, webcrawler, or bot, but they're really just automated web browsers) visit a web page, records some or all the text on that page, and then follows that page's links to other pages. The robot should revisit the page periodically to look for updates.

Indexing software builds a database out of all the words the robot recorded.

Finally, when you try a search, the search engine's search software looks through the database for the keywords you entered, and then ranks the matches using a ranking algorithm.

List of Search Engines:

Below you will find a ranked list of search tools--what has also been called search engines and directories--that use a specific algorythm or formula to retrieve sites. Generally, the advantage of using a search tool over a metasearch tool is that you can take advantage of features specific to a particular search tool to enhance the precision of your search.

google.jpg (6652 bytes) Google has pioneered perhaps one of the better features for determining relevancy--backlinks. In addition to using an algorithms like other search tools, Google analyzes hyperlinks or sites linking to a particular site, thus relying on the collective expertise of other sites to determine the relative worth of a site. The relatively simple no-frills interface makes searching easy. The recent addition of allowing the use of quotations to specify phrase searching has pushed Google to the top--consistently leading the field in finding pertinent information. Google Help
alta_vis.gif (1278 bytes) A comprehensive search engine for more than 150 million Web sites that is best for the beginner. The link here goes to the simple search mode. Alta Vista is at its best in the Simple mode. Recent improvements have made this search tool easy to use at the cost of versatility that was in the Advanced mode. Although the Advanced mode is still available, my recommendation is to abandon the advanced mode until further notice. The natural language type of search refers to AskJeeves to answer questions like: "Why is the Sky Blue?" A hint for searching with Alta Vista: Keep it Simple! Alta Vista Help
yahoo.gif (1731 bytes) A comprehensive listing of @750,000 Internet sites arranged by subject classification and selected by Yahoo staff. Although Yahoo searches a relative small number of web sites, the search engine will automatically defer to Inktomi as an underlying search tool to find additional sites. Yahoo Help
lightogo.gif (3675 bytes) A relatively new search engine that offers access to about 125 million Internet sites. The search engine requires most of the words in your search to be present in the documents retrieved. Also offers customization of search folders, similar to Alta Vista's Refine option, that allows a search to narrowed or focused more specifically. A unique feature of Northern Lights is the Special Collections site which contains information from more than 1,800 technical and professional publications.

Northern Light Help

gologo.gif (2090 bytes) InfoSeek allows you to perform a keyword search of about 45 million web pages and other Internet resources. This is a link to the Simple Search. For additional options, use the Advanced Search mode that has search specifications using easy to use drop down menus. InfoSeek Help.
lylogo.gif (1666 bytes) Lycos offers both a simple and an advanced search mode which provide access to about 50 million web pages. The simple mode is designed to be a hub for information and includes a subject directory, a search engine, information sites such as headlines, news, weather, stocks, etc. The Pro Search or advanced mode offers more control and versatility for searching beyond the directed links of the simple mode. So if you want to imput a search, use the Pro Search mode by clicking Search Options. Lycos Help.
hotbot9.gif (1398 bytes) Hotbot allows you to perform a keyword search of the entire text of web pages. The Advanced mode that allows you to enter additional search terms, specify additional media types, and more. Accesses about 110 million sites and is the search engine to use if you want to save a search. One of the major disadvantages is that you cannot search using truncation or proximity. HotBot Help.
excitelogo.gif (1206 bytes) Excite offers both a keyword search or a search by subject category of more than 55 million web sites. The PowerSearch interface is not as clean as the advanced mode of other tools, but certainly more effective than the simple search. Excite Help.
webcrawler2.jpg (2174 bytes) Web
Webcrawler allows you to perform a keyword search of web pages posted to the Internet. Webcrawler has recently updated and improved its interface but searches a relatively small number of sites.

WebCrawler Help

snap.gif (863 bytes) Snap is a joint venture between a broadcast network and an Internet portal service that offers both directory and keyword searching. Like other tools that use drop down menus, the simple interface allows individuals to conduct advanced searches without knowing complex search syntaxes. Snap Help
galaxy.gif (2490 bytes) Galaxy
Galaxy is a searchable directory that has a more extensive list of categories than the other search tools. Main categories are broken down into other categories that do not use a hierarchical structure, so it is somewhat difficult to navigate. Galaxy Help
lslogo.gif (1200 bytes) LookSmart allows simple searching but is best for searching within the extensive subject directory listings. Items in the main directory are subdivided into more specific categories and make the directory easier and more useful. A disadvantage of using LookSmart is that it does not include the URL on the description of retrieval sets. LookSmart Help
 mglobe.gif (891 bytes) Magellan
Magellan accesses more than 50 million sites and offers both keyword and subject searching. Magellan also has reviews for more than 60,000 sites. Magellan Help
aculogo.gif (11667 bytes) Allows keyword searching within specific search tools or a categories via a dropdown menu. AccuFind is an interesting idea, but it is more useful to go directly to the search tool you are want and skip the added layer.

MetaSearch Tools:

Below you will find a ranked list of metasearch tools which search multiple tools simultaneously. When metasearching, be aware that a metasearch is executed without taking advantage of specific designs and features of the individual search tools. On the other hand, as metasearching becomes more customizable, allowing you to choose individual tools and specific types of search and the display of retrieval sets, they will become a valuable asset to finding information on the Internet.

jeevesLeft.jpg (6275 bytes) Ask
AskJeeves uses a modified natural language search to search its database of approximately 6 million answers to the many popular questions asked online. The tool displays results in the form of a variety of questions and with results from five other search engines. AskJeeves does not provide all the answers, but does usually offer at least one good answer or some options to help find an answer. AskJeeves is one of the best places to begin a search because it combines both natural language searching and metasearching.

Ask Jeeves Help

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Internet Sleuth

The Internet Sleuth is a versatile tools in that it offers: metasearching of standard tools such as Alta Vista, Excite, InfoSeek, Lycos, WebCrawler, and Yahoo; and metasearching of reviewed sites and new sites from tools such as Lycos Reviewed Sites, Magellan, and Yahoo: New Listings. The Sleuth also uses a searchable subject directory that allows you to refine your search.

Internet Sleuth Help

prologo.gif (2417 bytes) ProFusion is an ongoing project of the Data Discovery on the Information Highway project that searches Alta Vista, Yahoo, Lycos Excite, InfoSeek, WebCrawler, Magellan, and others. The interface is one of the most versatile of the MetaSearch tools allowing you to specify which tools to search and how to display retrieved items.

ProFusion Help

savvylogo.gif (2571 bytes) SavvySearch is one of the lastest movers in the MetaSearch Tool category. SavvySearch queries multiple internet search tools like Alta Vista, Excite, InfoSeek, WebCrawler, Magellan, and others as well as other tools such as RealNames, AV Photo Finder, Four11, Who Where?, and the Yellow Pages. SavvySearch has features that allows foreign language searching. One of the most useful and innovative features is the Customization option which allows you to create your own metasearch tool to fit your own needs. One last feature about SavvySearch is the willingness of the people who design the tool to speak with you about the features and innovations of their tool. My compliments.

Customization option

mc.gif (888 bytes) MetaCrawler searches Open Text, Lycos, WebCrawler, InfoSeek, Excite, Inktomi, Yahoo, and Galaxy. MetaCrawler also has a useful list of Resources links.


top_infind.gif (1978 bytes) Inference Find does a parallel search on Alta Vista, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, Infoseek, and WebCrawler. Inference Find removes duplicates and groups sites in clusters of similar items--a useful feature for a metasearch engine.


arf-pile2.gif (5863 bytes) Dogpile
Dogpile does metasearches in Alta Vista, Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, WebCrawler, InfoSeek, HotBot, and others.
Dogpile Help
2_logos.gif (7799 bytes) Cyber411 is a meta-search tool that searches up to 16 of the most popular search engines. Cyber 411 Help
mamma.gif (1887 bytes) Mamma offers simultaneous searching of the major search engines. Mamma analyzes a search, then sets the terms into the correct syntax and format for each search tool it probes. The results are organized into a uniform retrieval set based on relevancy and source. Mamma Help
hs20060.gif (2151 bytes) HotSheet is more than just a metasearch tool. Actually, the best part of HotSheet is the difficult to navigate selected links. As a metasearch tool, HotSheet relies on MetaCrawler, Yahoo, and HotBot. But the categories link to sites on culture, search tools, finance, travel, reference, government, health, games, software, and more. Hotsheet Help
all4logo.gif (2892 bytes) All4One Search Machine searches AltaVista, Lycos, HotBot, and Excite using four separate frames that can be viewed individually. All4one Help

Subject Directories/Virtual Libraries:

Below you will find a ranked list of Subject Directories/Virtual Libraries. These tools differ dramatically from the search directories of search tools in that they are maintained by individuals or groups of individuals--in many cases professional librarians--who select resources linking to "good information."

infomine.gif (17556 bytes) INFOMINE is a collection of scholarly internet resources including databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, listservs, online library card catalogs, articles, and directories of researchers.
University of California
argus.gif (1256 bytes) A Selective Clearinghouse of Topical Guides
The Argus Clearinghouse is a directory that identifies and evaluates resources as well as provides descriptions of sites. The site is intended to be a resource that brings together finding aids for students, researchers, educators, and others interested in locating authoritative information on the Internet.
Private Company
acadinfo.jpg (4777 bytes) Academic Info
A site that focuses on Internet resources that are primarily academic or directed toward college audiences. Academic Info is organized by subject with annotated listings. The site allows either an index/subject search or a keyword search.
No Information
Independent Directory
Digital Librarian The Digital Librarian is a resource guide to Internet sites organized by subject. This site contains a wide variety of information and is well-organized and easy to use.
No Information
Independent Directory
aboutlogo.gif (3650 bytes), formarly the Mining Co., is a subject guide to sites about a variety of topics. The guide can be searched either with the directory, by topic, or by using the About A-Z link to browse sites alphabetically.
Public Company
liilogo.gif (6838 bytes) The Librarians' Index to the Internet is an annotated subject guide to resources selected and evaluated by librarians. The index is intended for both librarians and non-librarians.
California State Library
beau2.gif (7747 bytes) Beaucoup is a link to more than categorized 1400 sites. Find sites for Searching, Reference, Literature, Computers, Internet, Media, Education, and more. Also offers geographic specific sites to search for worldwide information.
Private Company


eb_logo.gif (1834 bytes) A site compiled by the Encyclopedia Britannica that classifies, rates, and reviews more than 75,000 Web sites organized by subject. A simple to use and good resource list for finding reliable information.
Private Company
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The Best Information on the Net

A site that is maintained by Marylaine Block at the O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University. Although the site is a bit unwieldy and difficult to intuitively navigate, the collection is substantial and well worth using. Some of the featured headings such as "Hot Paper Topics" and "Important Sites by Major" are well chosen and can provide excellent web sites for research and more.
No Information

St. Ambrose University

2edu22bt.gif (1147 bytes) ABCentral
A very comprehensive list of sites organized by subject. If you do not find the subject you are searching for, use theSearch feature. Slightly more difficult to use than other resources because of the frames.
Private Company
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Library of Congress

A site that compiles resources for exploring the Internet that includes subject guides, government sites, and information about the Internet and how to search the World Wide Web. This site is well worth a bit of exploration.
Federal Project
VLlogo.gif (1437 bytes) WWW Virtual Library
The World Wide Web (WWW) Virtual Library is the oldest subject dirctory of the web. It was started by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web itself, and is maintained by individuals around the world who are responsible for the content.

Volunteer Committee


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