Like any other resource, search engines work best when you know how to use
them. Unfortunately, no two are exactly alike and some are better than
others, depending on what you're searching for.
Choose Your Engine
Generally, there are three types of engines: computer-generated indexes,
directories and meta search engines.
More commonly referred to as crawlers
or spiders, computer-generated indexes like
WebCrawler scan the web looking for words relevant to your
search. Directories like Yahoo
are lists of sites edited by humans and organized by topic. Many sites are a combination of the two. Northern Light,
for example, is a spider that uses folders
you can search by subject, source description and type of document.
The third category includes meta search engines, which search other engines
for you. Google,MetaCrawler and
Dogpile are all meta engines.
Ask Jeeves is a meta engine that allows users to enter
queries in the form of a question. Ask Jeeves For Kids gives 7-14 year olds access to a screened
With so many to choose from, finding the best engine can be difficult. It's
best to find two or three you like and become familiar with them. Want to see what others are using?
The Search Maestros provide a list of their Top Search Engines and a brief description of each one.
Once you choose an engine, learn how to construct your search terms. Start
by reading the "help" guide on a search engine's home page or check out Infopeople's
Search Tools Chart,
which explains how to perform boolean and other searches for selected search
engines. The site also points out each site's special features.
Whatever engine you choose, always remember these hints:
Start specific. You can always broaden your search if you donít find what
you're looking for.
Place adjoining words in quotations (e.g. "white house").
Once your search results come up, don't scroll past the first page of
results. If what you want isn't one of the first selections, you can try a
more targeted search for better results.
When searching for topical information, specialty engines may be the way to
go. Follow these guides to the best sources for searching book reviews,
speech transcripts, genealogy records, tax forms and much more.
Use this site's channels to metasearch specialized engines from around the
Guide Chris Sherman breaks out specialized engines and directories. Follow
the left navigation bar for options.