TIPS, SEARCH ENGINES, AND SCAVENGER HUNT
- Read the directions
and help screens: The search engines differ, knowing the peculiarities
of a particular search engine will save lots of time.
your spelling: You cant find anything about Grover Cleveland,
if you type "Cleaveland."
- Understand Boolean Logic: You
may have ignored this topic when it was taught in gradeschool, but it
turns out to be important in searching. Understand how "and"
"or" and "not" work and make use of them. (Note
that not all search engines--e.g., Google--offer boolean searching.)
- Be As Specific As Possible:
If the Search Engine, allows you to put a phrase in quotes, then do
that. In Google, "I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" in quotes
gives 1,520 hits but without quotes, it gives you 3,680 hits. Use as
many words as possible: "Richard Nixon" gives you 270,000
hits; "Richard Nixon Audio" narrows it to 15,400 ; adding
"crook" brings it down to 346.
- Use Differentiating Words:
Look for words that highlight differences rather than common words;
uncommon names are particularly useful. If you were interested in the
Federal Theatre Project, you might do better searching under the name
of the director, Hallie Flanagan. Even better, you might combine "Federal
Theatre Project" AND "Hallie Flanagan" In these three
searches, you go from 93,400 to 1,600 to 203 hits.
- If you are looking for a picture
or sound file, limit your search by those categories: The procedure
varies with search engine, but Alta Vista and Hot Bot both offer ways
to search for just audio, images, or video. Google has an excellent
image search engine in beta.
Truth is Out There: Work on the assumption that what you want is
available. If you get no hits, recheck your spelling and the logic of
your search. Or, try another search engine.
your search is general, try a directory: If you are in a very preliminary
and broad search, you might do better with a directory like Yahoo!,
NBCi, and Oingo (or a specialized page), than a comprehensive search
Early Bird Gets There Faster: If possible, search when the web is
not so busy; in the Northeast, the busiest times are mid-afternoon.
what looks useful: Bookmarks are a useful way to keep track of something
that seems promising that you want to return to.
Consider using the "refine" or "limit" feature of
the search engine to narrow things down.
in the Deep Web: An increasing amount of historical material is
in the "invisible" or "deep" Web of databases that
don't show up in general Web searches. You need to learn about important
historical collections (e.g., American Memory in databases. (Complete
Planet at http://www.completeplanet.com
offers LexiBot, which claims to search the Deep Web, but it is not complete
in my testing.)
in the Private Web: There is a vast amount of historical material
in proprietary databases that you can not reach on the Public Web. Our
library subscribes to much of this material and http://library.gmu.edu/resources/dbase.html
is your gateway to that material.
are many search engine; the relative quality of search engines has varied
significantly over time; the top search engines today did not exist a
few years ago.
recent PC Magazine test (http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/stories/reviews/0,6755,2652841,00.html)
and Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com)
as "editor's choices." Google, in particular, is the clear favorite
among Web "power users" because it uses a different "ranking
algorithm" that tries to get at the "reputation" of the
site by counting the number of sites that link to that page and the importance
of those links and it also apparently has the largest database of Web
pages. Northern Light's unique features are its "folders" approach
to sorting results and its access to gated "special collections."
Other highly rated search engines, includeAlta
Vista Advanced Search http://www.altavista.com/cgi-bin/query?pg=aq&what=web),
which has powerful features for refining searches; .Fast Search (http://www.alltheweb.com),
which is very fast and large HotBot (http://www.hotbot.com),
which has good advanced search and personalizing features. But there are
lots of other search engines with passionate defenders.
Increasingly, however, Google is emerging as the search
engine of choice.
If you want to learn
much more about searching, two good starting points are:
Engine Watch: http://www.searchenginewatch.com
University of California, Berkeley: "Finding Information on the Internet
: A TUTORIAL" at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/FindInfo.html