Los Angeles Valley College

Internet Searching

It’s not so much which search tools you use… 
The secret to success is how you think about your topic and the search tools available

Types of Search Tools

Subject Directories
Librarians’ Internet Indext, Infomine, Yahoo

Search Engines
Alta VistaGoogle, AllTheWeb

MetaSearch Engines

Ixquick:  Searches AltaVista, Fast Search, Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, MSN, Yahoo & more

Why Cover Both Topics?

  • Most people use search engines without considering the usefulness of subject directories for their topics.
  • The difference between these two types of tools is poorly understood.
  • Yahoo! is such a popular directory that often more selective and higher quality directories are often
  • Try out multiple sites when investigating a topic. They vary in their database contents, features,
    selectivity, and accuracy.

Subject Directories

  • Entries chosen by people
  • Ordered by subject
  • Some have annotations and/or ratings
  • Small subset of the Internet
  • Most are searchable
  • They vary significantly in selectivity

Academic and Professional Directories

  • Created by librarians or professionals in the field
  • Tend to be associated with libraries and academic institutions
  • Created to enhance the research process
  • Careful selection process is applied
  • Do not generate income or carry advertising

Commercial Directories/Portals

  • Created to generate income
  • Links to a wide range of topics and often emphasize entertainment, commerce, hobbies, sports, travel,
    and other interests not necessarily covered by academic directories
  • Sites seek to draw traffic in order to support advertising
  • Yahoo is an example of a commercial portal

When should directories be used?

  • When broad idea of topic is to be researched

  • When want to see sites on topic often recommended and annotated by experts

  • When want to retrieve a list of sites on a topic, rather than numerous individual pages contained within these sites

  • When want to avoid viewing low-content documents that often turn up on a search

Search Engines

  • Database built by computers
  • Comprehensive
  • No evaluation
  • Use relevancy rankings
  • Some have advanced search options

Database Creation: Search Engines

  • Web Spiders (robots, crawlers) search Web servers
  • Frequent visits to sites that change often
  • Visit some of all pages on a Web site
  • Takes from two weeks to …
  • Adds to and alters its database
  • Stores information in records and fields according to differing indexing schemes

Data not found in Search Engines

  • Dynamic data e.g. a CGI form request
  • Content of PDF, other formatted files
  • Content of most sites requiring a login
  • Content of most databases

    Estimated to be 40-60% of Web pages

    • Library Online Catalogs
    • Martindale Hubbell 
    • Medline
    • IRS forms
    • Government Statistics

When should search engines be used?

  • When have narrow idea of obscure topic or idea to research
  • When want to search the full text of millions of pages
  • When want to look for particular types of documents, file types, source locations, languages, date last
    modified, etc.
  • When want to take advantage of newer retrieval technologies such as concept clustering, link raking, etc.

A search type in which you enter the terms representing the concepts you wish to retrieve
Break down topic into component concepts

  • List keywords for each concept
  • List synonyms
  • Specify the logical relationships among keywords (Boolean logic)

Basic Search Operators

  • Operators must connect to a word or phrase, no spaces, e.g. +python* -”monty python"
  • + Plus sign to include
  • - minus sign to exclude
  • " " Quotes to phrase (2 or more words)
  • * to truncate

These work in many, but not all Search Tools

Boolean Searching

  • AND; find both of the words
  • kayak AND canoe
  • OR; find either or both of the words
  • kayak OR canoe
  • NOT; find the first word not the second word
  • kayak NOT canoe

NOTE: by default, some tools use AND some use OR

Terms that have been shortened to their root

    nation* retrieves
  • nation
  • nations
  • nationality
  • nationalization

Combining several terms and operators into a single “search statement”
When more than one operator is used, parenthesis should be used to clearly distinguish how terms are to be

  • History AND (England OR Great Britain)
  • Acid (rain or precipitation)

Usenet New Groups
Google Groups (a full-text search tool), http://www.deja.com -- a specialized database just for searching

  • Browse by subject category or “community” at left
  • Search for terms in newsgroup discussion or communities in the search box

Before You Click

  • Should I use the Internet?
  • What’s my subject?
  • What are my search terms?
  • What search operators to use?
  • Which tool should I try first?
  • Should I add or delete a term?

Searching Strategy

  • Try a logical guess
  • Pick a search tool
  • Choose keywords
  • vary your spelling
  • know how to widen your search

Know when to move on

  • Try more than one tool
  • Search results vary widely
  • What you see is less than what’s out there
  • Question authenticity
  • Remember, success depends on matching words and phrases with what’s out there

404 File Not Found Problems

  • Your typos
  • Good to look before you click search button
  • Their typos in links
    • e.g. berkley instead of berkeley
  • Directory/file renamed or moved
  • Move up a level or two and look around
  • If you really want it; title search in AltaVista or NorthernLight


  • The Internet is a self-publishing medium
  • Your searches will yield files of varying quality
  • Be sure to evaluate everything you encounter