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Search LibrarySpot or Google |   Great Must-See sites   |   Read Articles and Lists | Find answers | Did you know?  
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Search Engine Tips.

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 metasearch.

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.

Search Smarts

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.




The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction offers a comprehensive list of sites offering search strategies and guides. Featured guides include: Whatever engine you choose, always remember these hints:
  1. Start specific. You can always broaden your search if you donít find what you're looking for.
  2. Place adjoining words in quotations (e.g. "white house").
  3. 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.
Specialized Searches

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.

  • Search.com
    Use this site's channels to metasearch specialized engines from around the Web.

  • Websearch.about.com
    Guide Chris Sherman breaks out specialized engines and directories. Follow the left navigation bar for options.

  • SearchAbility
    A directory of search engine directories.




   --- A. Harris

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