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Searching the web is an ongoing learning process, a never ending one as the Internet continues to evolve. When you search you want to locate creditable information, that which is not always at the top of any result page.



  • Search Directories

  • Internet resources are compiled and sorted into broad categories (subjects)
  • by humans not computer programs. Subject heading categories are arranged
  • from very general to very specific.
  • Search Engines

  • Search engines use computer programs (robots, bots, spiders) to search the Web,
  • create databases and index the information. A search engine can search subject
  • headings, contents, URL's, authors, titles, etc.
  • Metasearch Engines

  • Metasearch engines do not index the Internet but search the indexes and
  • databases of other search engines.


  • Subject Search

  • A search on general broad topics.
  • Keyword Search

  • Matches a word or words to subject headings, authors, titles, URL's,
  • contents, etc.
  • Natural Language

  • A question is entered directly into the search engine. The words in your
  • question are used as keywords for the search. (Example: What animals
  • are endangered in the U.S.?)
  • Concept Search

  • The search engine returns other keywords or combination of keywords that
  • you can use to further define your search. Click next to the term to add
  • it to the search. (Example: endangered species - the search engine might
  • return these words to further define your search - threatened; species; zoos;
  • conservation; extinct; animal.)


  • The Operators

    • AND, OR and NOT
      (Boolean operators) are used to create relationships between keywords to narrow or
      broaden a search. Always capitalize the Boolean operators in a search.
    • AND
      Two words connected with AND narrow a search. The search will return pages
      containing both words. (Example: endangered AND animals)
    • OR
      Two words connected with OR broadens a search. The search will return pages
      containing either word. (Example: whales OR dolphins)
    • NOT
      Two words connected with NOT narrows the search. The search will return pages
      containing only the first word, not the second. If the second word is found, the
      page will not be returned. (Example: dolphins NOT whales)
  • Using Boolean Operators

    • Boolean operators can be combined in many ways or alone for better searching.
    • Not all search engines or directories allow Boolean searching. Some will allow
      searching from the main page, others from their advanced search page.
    • The best way to learn more is to use help and FAQ's for each search engine.


  • Searching Rules

  • Rules vary with search engines. Read the FAQ's and help sections for each
  • search tool. Rules include order of keywords, operators, and additional symbols.
  • + (Plus Sign)

  • The + sign means must. It means the same as the Boolean operator AND. Most
  • search engines allow use of the + sign. Leave a space after the first word in your
  • search, then place the minus sign immediately before the word that must appear
  • in the search.
  • - (Minus Sign)

  • The - sign means the same as the Boolean operator NOT. Leave a space after the
  • first word in your search, then place the - sign immediately before the word that
  • must not appear in the search.
  • Quotes

  • Place quotes around a phrase to search for the complete phrase on a web page.
  • (Example: "information literacy")
  • Truncation

  • Use an asterisk (*) at the end of a word to search for multiple endings of a word
  • (usually a root word). The asterisk can represent OR in this kind of search.
  • (Example: child* The search will result in web pages including child, children,
  • childhood, etc.
  • Case Sensitivity

  • Capitalize proper nouns. A search engine will usually then search for just the
  • uppercase form of the word. If not capitalized the search will result in web pages
  • ith both upper and lower case versions of the word.


  • Begin searching for information about your topic by using print materials in the
    Media Center first.
  • Plan your search strategy before beginning a search. Write down your keywords
    subject words, synonyms, etc.
  • Before using search engines and directories, use Westmontwiki resource links.
  • When you are ready to use search engines or directories, decide which ones you
    want to use. Are you looking for general information (directory) or more specific
    information (engine).
  • Learn how to use different search engines and directories. No two search or index
    the Internet in the same way. If your search results are not satisfactory,
    try another search tool.
  • Read search tool help and FAQ files.
  • Read the summaries of search results before you link to a web site. Check the
    source (domain - .edu; .gov; .com; .k12; .org; etc.) Eliminate irrelevant sites
    before you proceed.
  • Search tools that rate the results of a search usually rate by the number of times
    a keyword appears not the relevance to your topic and keywords.
  • If you get too many hits, be more specific. If your search results in too few hits, be
    more general, check spelling and add synonyms. The more synonyms you use,
    often times the better the results.

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