Internet searching

sample screenshots from 'Study Skills 2.0'

Net searching

The quickest way to locate data on the Net is to use a search engine.

Popular examples include Alta-Vista, Lycos, and Infoseek.

Other forms of searching exist [Gopher and Telnet] but with these you need to know the data location.

If you are reading this whilst connected to the Internet, hot links to search engines are listed at the bottom of this page.


Remember that anybody can put data on the Net.

You need to evaluate the quality of the information you recover.

Always give the source of any information you use.

There are new conventions for citing electronic sources.

Search engines

A search engine [SE] will scan its database (or the Net itself) for whatever word(s) you type in the FIND box.

It will then return a number of ‘hits’ – possibly rated according to likely significance.

Most of the popular SEs use slightly different search methods and databases.

If you don’t find what you want with one, try another.

Some will quote the first few lines of an extract.

Search techniques

Be as specific and ‘narrow’ as possible in defining your request.

General and ‘wide’ requests will result in too many hits.


Say you were researching pineapple production in Brazil.

A search on ‘pineapple’ might result in 10,000 hits.

[You have ten thousand documents to evaluate!].

Choosing ‘pineapples+Brazil+1997’ narrows the search to documents which include all these terms.

Boolean terms

Most SEs will recognise the use of terms which help you to narrow your request.

‘Bacon AND tomato’ will locate documents which contain both these terms.

‘Bacon OR tomato’ will locate documents which contain either of these terms.

‘Bacon NOT tomato’ will locate documents which contain one term, but not the other.

You can also use keyboard symbols to refine a search:

+ plus = and
minus = not
(  ) brackets = group of words
”  “ quotes = groups of words
* star = wildcard

The wildcard is powerful but should be used with care.

A search for Colum* would return Columbus, Columbia, Columbian, Column, and so on.

General points

Letter case doesn’t matter with most SEs. ‘Smith’, ‘smith’ and ‘SMITH’ are all the same.

Don’t assume the data you are looking for must be available on line.

Thousands of pages are added to the Web daily, but the total
is still far less than the volume of printed material in big libraries.

Many SEs will now allow you to narrow your searches by

  • language (Spanish, English French)
  • date (in last 2/3 days, week, month)
  • continent (,,
  • source (Web, newsgroups, companies)

The same principles can be used to find software, as well as named information.

For instance, search for PKZIPW.EXE for the latest version of the popular Windows compression utility.

This is worth repeating

Always acknowledge your sources.

Downloading is like photocopying. Say where you found the data.

Use the new conventions for citing electronic sources.


AltaVista Excite Google
Infoseek HotBot WebCrawler
Yahoo! Lycos Northern Light


© Mantex/Clifton Press 2008-2011

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    Study Skills covers every aspect of study skills – reading, writing, research, revision, exams, and even presentations. Learn how to absorb information quickly. Study effectively by using good time management skills. How to digest books and summarise their contents. Suitable for all students in further and higher education. Runs in any Web browser. Latest version […]

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