State University Libraries
INTERNET SEARCH TOOLS
as used here, refers to online tools used to locate and create
listings of Internet sites. These tools help researchers find
information that is not in subscription databases, behind firewalls,
or in other unattainable areas of the Internet. At times, the
information will be free. However, in many instances, the information
is only available for a fee.
Internet search tools come in five primary forms: search engines,
meta search tools, directories, pathfinders/research guides, and searchable
Engines use computer programs called
"spiders" or "robots" to compile Internet
pages and then scan these pages when users enter search terms
in the search engine. Each search engine only scans the pages
it has compiled, not the entire Internet. Therefore, it is always
a good idea to use more than one search engine when looking
for information on the Internet.
Most search engines offer "advanced search" or "guided
search" interfaces that let users search by phrase, combine
searches, limit searches, etc. Therefore, they help searchers
locate more relevant information.
However, given the number of pages on the Internet (over a billion
and growing), search results lists are often quite long, which
decreases research efficiency. Also, search engines do not necessarily
list search results starting with the best ones. Many different
guidelines come into play when search results are listed--including
paid placement and paid inclusion. Examples of search engines
Other search engines like Excite,
Google, and Yahoo
offer the combined features of search engines and directories
simultaneously search the sites compiled by several search engines, which can save you time when conducting searches that require broad coverage. However, meta search tools usually offer limited control over search options and may not search as thoroughly as using individual search engines would. Examples of meta search tools are MetaCrawler, Dogpile, KillerInfo, and Ixquick.
offer lists of Internet sites organized by subject and are created
by people who review sites to determine their worth before listing
them (or not). Directories list fewer sites about a subject
than search engines because directories are selective and the
sites have been reviewed. However, this selectivity increases
the probability that a listed site will be relevant and useful.
Directories are fairly easy to navigate. Users browse the categories
and follow links to find desired material. However, this process
can be time-consuming, and users must clearly understand where
a site might be listed in order to find it. Many directories
also offer search mechanisms to help users locate listed sites.
Example directories include Argus
Public Library, dmoz
(the Open Directory project), and The
WWW Virtual Library.
& Research Guides
are similar to directories, but are subject specific. They are
usually compiled by experts in a field or subject-specialist
librarians who search the Internet, evaluate web sites, and
compile lists for a specific field, subject, discipline, etc.
Many libraries, companies, and professional organizations offer
online pathfinders and research guides.
Example research guides are the Tarleton libraries' Human
Resource Management and Business
& Accounting guides which offer links to Tarleton library
resources (catalog and databases) and to lists of relevant Internet
can be good sources of information, but are often not found
by search engines or listed in subject directories. You can
sometimes find them while browsing the Internet. More likely,
you'll find them listed in directories of searchable databases,
such as The Invisible
Web Directory and U.S. Department of Education's Cross-Site
search tools are useful
you are brainstorming ideas for a research topic,
you need current information about companies, industries, people,
you want to locate information regarding all levels of government,
you need international information that is unavailable locally,
you want to locate online periodicals to retrieve articles (if
they are available either free or for a fee).
researchers should remember that some search engines offer "paid
placement" (determines how far up a results list a site is listed)
and that no expertise is needed to post an Internet page. Therefore
special care must be taken when evaluating information freely available
on the Internet. Unit 8 offers more in-depth information about evaluating
Library Orientation Site
Search Tools & Info Needs