Using the Web to find Information
Keys to Searching
You've got questions? The Internet has answers. But it
only has some of the answers.There is a massive amount of information
that is not, and perhaps never will be on the Internet. So if you
don't find your answer on the Internet, check your library
Approaches to Web searching.
Search Engine Lists
These are merely lists of search engines collected in one
location. You can access the engines right from the list.
Test out various engines and find one or two that work best for
your search needs. Search engines vary in breadth and
coverage, that is, the number of Web sites they record. They
also vary in depth. One may look only through titles
while another may examine opening paragraphs or even full text. In
addition, available search techniques differ from one engine to the
next. Consequently, you may fine that one engine suits your needs
better than another.
- c|net (SEARCH.COM)
- This site lists 250 Web searchers, all categorized. You may
search the searchers to find one appropriate to a particular
inquiry. Welcome to
search.com describes how to use this search index. You may
want to start with this page and then return to the homepage of
- The All-in-One
- A Web page which lists nearly 200 search tools.
- Tools for Searching the Internet -- Looking for contact
information of a colleague? Mutual fund performance over the last
five years? All that and more is increasingly just a few
mouse-clicks away with the latest Internet search services.
Contains the following search categories.
- Subject directories
- Web databases
- Search engine lists
- Metaserach Tools
- The comprehensive search tool
- Job banks
- General reference tools
- Government Information
- Web sites for higher education
- Web Sites for mechanical engineering
- Sites for chemistry
- Sites for mathematics
- Sites for biology
- Sites for nursing and health sciences
- Sites for business and economics
- Sites for financial aid
Configurable Unified Search Index (CUSI)
- A user-friendly list. It has a single-search form. You enter
your search request and CUSI "translates" it into a format
acceptable to the search engine you have selected. Thus, you need
to become familiar with only one search format and enter a
particular search only one time.
- Internet Sleuth
- A rather amazing list, focusing not on search engines, but on
searchable, stand-alone databases. It contains links to more than
1,000 databases. As with c|net, the databases are categorized. You
may choose to search within Sleuth to find a database appropriate
to a particular topic.
- Open Text Web
- A Web database that provides serveral different search
interfaces, depending upon your need. For quick and basic searches
there is the "Simple Search." For those who know how to use
Boolean operators and would like the additional search syntax
control they provide there is "Power Search." And finall, there is
"Weighted Search," where the user can assign numberic values that
indicate the relative importance of the search words.
- Alta Vista
- The latest Web database to appear on the Internet also appears
to be one of the best. Tennant (1996)
reports that the Web robot that builds this database
(called"Scooter," incidentally) even located and indexed two
documents from his desktop Macintosh. The database claims to
index over 16 million Web pages containing over 8 billion words.
IT offers a search of this massive web database, or searching the
full-text of over 13,000 Usenet news groups. It offers both a
simple search and an advanced search option. In the advanced
search option you can use Boolean operators and also select
additiona words to use ot rank results.
An example of an
Alta Vista Search is provided for you to try.
Erik Selberg and Oren Etzioni describe a metasearch
engine as "the next level up in the information 'food chain'." The
metasearch engine does not maintain a database, but submits a request
simultaneously to several other web engines and/ or directories. The
results may come back integrated into a single list, or sorted
according to the engine that located them. Each item mayu or may not
be given a relevance score, based primarily on the frequescy of your
search terms within the document. You may select any item and
immediatedly link with it.
- This metasearch tool searches eight other search tools:
Excite, Galaxy, InfoSeek, Inktomi, Lycos, OpenText, WebCrawler,
and Yahoo. You may search for any word (like an OR command), all
words (AND), or all words as a phrase. A minus sign preceeding a
search term equates to NOT in Boolean searching, thus eliminating
items containing that word. MetaCrawler allows each engine a
limited response time, selected by the user. You may limit the
search geographically or by organization type (e.g.,educational,
commercial). Results are double-checked for availability, ranked
for relevancy, and displayed beginning with the highest scoring
- This search tool displays its search form in any of several
languages. It selects two to five databases from its list of
(currently) 23, choosing on the basis of relevance to the topic
and speed in responsse to recent inquiries. All eight of
MetaCrawler's search engines are included. SavvySearch does not
have the NOT equivalent. Up to 50, but no more, items may be
accepted from any one of the underlying engines. Results are not
checked or sorted. SavvySearch presents its search plan, showing
the engines already selected as the best for your inquiry,
followed by others you may try.
- A Unified Search
Engine for InTernet (USE IT!)
- This is a recent addition to the metasearch group. Based in
Italy, it features a number of international search tools,
including business, news, and computer databases. You may choose
either less than 20 or more than 20 items from the databases you
select. Return time is set from one to five minutes. At present
the best way to search is by entering a single word, usually in
the language of the search tool. More complex search procedures
are being developed.
WWW Virtual Library
- This is a distributed subject catalogue. See its Category
Subtree, Library of Congress Classification (Experimental), Top
Ten most popular Fields (Experimental), Statistics (Experimental),
and Index. See also arrangement by service type, and other subject
catalogues of network information .
The Comprehensive Search Tool
This tool reaches beyond the Internet to include familiar,
commercially published indexes.
- This tool has the broadest scope. Using its Universal Index,
NLightN not only sifts through the WWW (using Lycos, but
simultaneously searchs 500 proprietary databases. These include
- Business Periodicals Index
- Education Index,
- Biography Master Index
- Conference Papers Index
- Encyclopedia of Associations
- Newspaper and Periodical Absctracts
Many of these databases are available elsewhere, but for a fee.
With NLightN, one may register and conduct a search without
charge. Internet hits are then reachable free. For resrouces from
the databases, NLightN often provides enough information so that
one can locate the item. If not, or if one wants an abstract or
full text, charges range upward from ten cents per citation.
Infobots and Personal Searchers
Information in this section was developed by Claire
Carpenter, Technical Editor and Internet Trainer, Faculty Academic
Computing and Technology Support (FACTS) Center at the University of
Several personal robots and agents to bring you your own personal
electronic newspaper have appeared in recent weeks (e.g., from
InfoSeek, Excite, Yahoo, and Apple). New robots and personal agents
to help you with Web searches you make regularly are no doubt in the
The URL-Minder would like to be "your own personal Web robot." It
can automate some aspects of keeping up with Web developments. When
any Web resource you have registered changes, the URL-Minder will
notify you by e-mail. If you register a search URL, it will let you
know when something new has been found by your "standing" search
request. See both the
of the URL-Minder".
Poke! is a new "search
assistant" or utility that works with Netscape to keep a record of
places on the Web you have searched and explored. In essence, it
seems to store your GO list from session to session instead of
deleting it. Poke! stays right at hand and offers you ready access to
several search engines. It's a promising tool, but still a bit buggy
(save all open files before exploring Poke, since it may crash your
"Agents of Change" What are these new "intelligent agents" anyway?
For general information on what is on the horizon with artificial
intelligence and software agents, see a recent article from Internet
World. Don Norman, who is well known for his work in interface design
(and his critiques of the poor design of VCRs!) is interviewed on the
subject of artificial intelligence and "software agents" in a
Change," in the May 1996 issue of Internet World.
Popular Search Engines
Linking directly to Search Tools from Netscape using the
Search button. This will take you to five popular search tools
- and more
The Search Engine Cheatsheet
If you are having problems understanding the Boolean operators in
the various search engines, check out the
Search Engine Comparison Information
You also can compare search engines at
Engines. You can access
- A Guide to Search Tools
- Comparing Search Engines
- More Comparing
Search Engines Plus
- World Wide Web Worm
- *Whole Internet Catalog *(by subject)
- Netfind email address finder
- Directory of academic discussion groups
- Listserv directory
- Newsgroup directory (arranged by subject)
- Glossary of internet terms
- Who's Who on the Internet
- Savvy Search
Making the Connections
This set of resources developed by Lillian Biermann Wehmeyer
provides information on how to find teaching resrouces and discussion
groups on the Net.
- Clearinghouse of
Subject-Oriented Internet Resoruce Guides
of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion
Galaxy is a guide to worldwide information and services and
is provided as a public service by TradeWave Corporation. In
addition, Galaxy guest editors bring you their wide-ranging
information and insight.
- Library of Congress
Printing Office Access Keeping America Informed: The Federal
Register, Congressional Record, Congressional Bills and other
Federal Government information are available online via GPO
Access, a service of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).
Public access is available through the Federal Depository Library,
or directly from GPO.
Libraries with Internet Services
- Liszt: A tool for locating
mailing lists provides a catalog of 50,000 listservs.
- New Tools For
Reference.COM lets you search for information in over 16,000
Usenet newsgroups and hundreds of publicly-accessible mailing
lists, with more being added every day. You can search for a
particular newsgroup or search for a mailing list to see if it is
indexed. If not, you can suggest a newsgroup or mailing list to be
- TileNet: Provides a
reference to mailing lists, Usenet Newsgroups, Computer Porducts
Vendors and FTP sites.
- archie: A
list of archie servers
Virtual Libraries and Subject Indexes
of Particular Interest to Higher Ed
INFOMINE, a new and growing
virtual library being constructed through the Library at the
University of California, Riverside, includes over 5000 hand-picked
links of potential interest to people in academe.
According to its opening blurb, "INFOMINE is intended for the
introduction and use of Internet/Web resources of relevance to
faculty, students, and research staff at the university level. It is
being offered as a comprehensive showcase, virtual library and
reference tool containing highly useful Internet/Web resources
including databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin
boards, listservs, online library card catalogs, articles and
directories of researchers, among many other types of information."
There are currently eight different INFOMINES in various broad
subject areas, each with special, very flexible and powerful search
and browsing options. For more information, see the
webCATS, Library Catalogs on the World-Wide Web
Increasingly, libraries whose catalogs had been available via
telnet are now becoming reachable through the Web. According to the
"This resource will link you to all library on-line public-access
catalogues which have World Wide Web interfaces." Three different
indexes offer you convenient options for moving to the libraries that
interest you. The geographic index, for example, allows you to move
from a continent to a county, while the type index allows you to
start by type of library (public, law, college and university, etc.).
A new search option should be added to this site soon. A link is also
provided to the webCATS predecessor, HYTELNET, which continues to
provide telnet access to hundreds of library catalogs worldwide,
including over 1000 in the US.
Limited Area Search Engine
ARGOS: Limited Area Search of the Ancient World
A new venture in "peer-gathered" discipline-based database,
ARGOS is a project
coordinated by Prof. Tony Beavers, who teaches philosophy at the
University of Evansville. He is working with colleagues in classical
studies to prepare and maintain a searchable index of a few quality
sites for students and researchers in classical (and medieval)
materials. One of his associates is Prof. Ross Scaife, in Classics at
UK. This pioneering effort, which claims to be the first LASE
(Limited Area Search Engine), aims to help classicists find highly
relevant Web materials without having to wade through dozens or
hundreds of irrelevant links. Academics in other disciplines may want
to undertake similar efforts to make searching on the Web more
rewarding and fruitful.
Other Interesting Resources
Information in this section was developed by Claire Carpenter,
Technical Editor and Internet Trainer, Faculty Academic Computing and
Technology Support (FACTS) Center at the University of KY.
Several articles have appeared recently which provide pointers and
ideas on guiding students (local or distant) as they learn searching
skills and techniques.
To see how a research mentor can make the search process real for
students, read "A Mentor/Research Model to Teach Library Skills: An
Introduction to Database Searching" in the September 1996 issue of
T.H.E. Journal, pp. 96-98. See the online copy, which should appear
soon on the
For guidelines on imparting to students a sequenced set of search
strategies, read "Teaching Online Search Techniques Your Students Can
Use," in the September 1996 issue of Syllabus. pp. 52-56. This
article is unfortunately not available online, though you can read a
The home page provides information on how to get a free
subscription to the magazine, which provides excellent coverage of
innovative computing in higher education.
UMDL The University of Michigan Digital Library (UMDL) is one of
six libraries with special funding from the National Science
Foundation as well as ARPA and NASA to explore and prototype the idea
of a digital library, especially as a resource and a stimulus for
inquiry-based learning. "UMDL is an experimental system designed to
provide access to information related to Earth and Space Sciences. A
wide variety of resources are available to patrons of the UMDL,
including magazine and journal articles, encyclopedia entries,
sounds, and data." The UMDL efforts are geared particularly toward
providing library services over a digital network. To explore this
resource, try out this
To peek behind the scenes, read the related article
Inquiry-Based Education Through Interacting Software Agents".
This somewhat technical article explains how UMDL is defining modular
intelligent agents to work together in helping library users find
what they want.
- How close one search word should occur in relationto another
search word. For example, one of the Open Text Web Index "Power
Searching" options allows you to specify that one word should
occur "near" to another or "followed by" another.
- Boolean operators
- The use of joining words includeing "and," "or," or "not" to
describe the logical relationship of one or more search terms with
one or more other search terms.
- False drops
- Items that are returned but are not what you were wanting,
usually because the search terms used were present in the results
but not in the context of your search. For example, terms with the
same spelling but more than one meaning often cause false drops,
as do terms that are roots of or parts of other terms.
- Items returned from a search that match your search terms.
- Results ranking
- The process whereby search hits are ranked in order of
computed relevance to your query. Results ranking attempts to put
the resources most likely to match your information need at the
top of the list of results.
- Search terms
- Words that describe the topic of your search.
- The process of chopping off, or truncating, search terms to
improve matching with variations of that word; for example,
removing "ing" and "ed" endings.
- Wehmeyer, Lillian Biermann, (1996)
- Internet Resources for course Development, Syllabus August
1996 pages 26-29.
- Wehmeyer, Lillian Biermann, (1996)
- Wide-Angle Searching on the World Wide Web, Syllabus June 1996
- Tennant, Roy (1996)
- The Best Tools for Searching on the Internet, Syllabus
February 1996 pages 36-38.
page was developed and is maintained by Rene M. Hales. Please send
comments or suggestions to
Last updated on October 2, 1996.