A Guide to Search Engines


Evaluating Web Sites.
St. John's Home Page

Single Engines   use the finding capabilities of only one company but make available specialized features not available in MEGA Engines.

Google    Tips     Demo (~ 2 minutes)     Demo w/Sound (~ 6 minutes)
All-the-Web    Tips
Alta-Vista    Tips
AskJeeves    Tips
MSN    Tips

Mega Engines   combine the results of selected single search engines but are not able to use the specialized features found in Single Engines.


Subject Guides   are organized guides to the internet.

Open Directory Project
Librarian's Internet Directory

Specialty Engines   limit their results to web pages in their discipline.

Scirus    (science information)
FirstGov    (government info)

Search Engine Hints
10 Tips for Successful Web Searching

Tip #1: Use the plus (+) and minus (-) signs before words to force their inclusion (+) or exclusion (-) in the search. Do not put a space between the sign and the keyword. For example: +new +york +city or +new +york +state -city

Tip #2: Use double quotation marks (" ") around a phrase to ensure it is searched exactly as is, with the words side by side in the same order. Do not put quotation marks around a single word. For example: "global warming"

Tip #3: Put your most important keywords first.

Tip #4: Type keywords and phrases in lower case to find both lower and upper case versions. Typing capital letters will usually return only an exact match.

Tip #5: Use truncation and wildcards to look for variations in spelling and word form (Check the search engine you're using to see what symbol is used for truncation and/or wildcard searches). For example: govern* would find the words govern, government, governing, governmental, etc. while wom*n would find both woman and women.

Tip #6: Combine phrases with keywords, using the double quotes and the plus (+) and/or minus (-) signs. In this case, if you use a keyword with a +sign, you must put the +sign in front of the phrase as well. When searching for a phrase alone, the +sign is not necessary. For example: +Aretha +Franklin +"Queen of Soul"

Tip #7: When searching a document for the location of your keywords, use the "find" command on that page (usually Ctrl + F).

Tip #8: Know the default (basic) settings your search engine uses (OR or AND). This will have an effect on how you configure your search statement because, if you don't use any signs (+ -""), the search engine will default to its own settings.

Tip #9: Know whether or not the search engine you are using maintains a stop word list. Stop words are usually common words (a, an, the, its, etc.) that are ignored. If it does, don't use known stop words in your search statement.

Tip #10: Use Boolean Operators. Using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) with search engines is not always simple or easy. Different search engines handle Boolean operators differently. For example, some accept NOT, some accept ANDNOT as one word, others AND NOT as two words. Some require the operators to be typed in capital letters while others do not. Some basic rules help, though:

AND narrows your search by retrieving only documents that contain every one of the keywords you enter. The more terms you enter, the narrower your search becomes.

OR expands your search by returning documents in which either or both keywords appear. Since the OR operator is usually used for keywords that are similar or synonymous, the more keywords you enter, the more documents you will retrieve.

The Boolean NOT or AND NOT limits your search by returning only your first keyword but not second, even if the first word appears in that document, too.