Skip to main content

Using the Internet for Research: Types of Search Tools

A brief guide to efficiently and effectively using the internet for college-level research

Reference & Research Help

Ways to Get Research Help


Visit us at the
Info & Research Help Desk


Call Us
(During Info & Research Help Desk Hours)

(401) 874-2653


Chat With Us
(During Info & Research Help Desk Hours)

Click Here to Start


Email Us
(After Regular Hours)

urilibrarian@gmail.com

(Please allow 2-3 business days for a response)

Tools for Finding Web Sites

There are three main ways of finding web sites:

  • Search Engines
  • Directories
  • Links from trusted web sites

We will spend the most time with search engines, but the other two are useful, so don't forget about them!

Search Engines

You are probably most familiar with looking for sites using a search engine -- you enter you terms and the search engine returns a list of web pages that had your terms somewhere in them.

Pros

  • Quick and straightforward.
  • You get a lot of results.
  • Excellent for finding popular materials and services.

Cons

  • There is a lot of junk, including misleading and malicious material.
  • Since there is little or no human involvement, the search is only as successful as you make it; you will need good searching and evaluation skills to find good sites.
  • The  page you really want might be buried in a list of thousands of results.

Examples

Directories

Directories are collections of links that usually have been collected and organized by human beings. The often give brief descriptions of the sites, so you can easily chose which ones you want to try.

Pros

  • You generally know what you are getting; a good directory is going to point you toward good sites.
  • They are often focused on a particular set of information (e.g. government resources or game sites).
  • Someone has selected them for you, removing a lot of junk and malicious sites.

Cons

  • You need to find a good directory.
  • Because they are put together by humans, they require more time to construct and maintain -- you are more likely to find broken links and you will likely not find the most recent material.
  • You usually have to search through the layers of the table of contents rather than searching for keywords.

Examples

Links from Trusted Sites

When you find a good and useful site, it is almost always worth looking to see if the site has a collection of links to similar sites. Like using the bibliography at the end of a paper or book to find related sources, this is an excellent way to save yourself time and effort.

Pros

  • You generally know what you are getting; a good site is going to point you toward good sites.
  • They are very often extremely focused; a site on underwater archeology is most likely to link to other sites on underwater archeology.
  • Someone has selected them for you, removing a lot of junk and malicious sites.
  • Since they are so focused, there are usually a limited number of options, saving you time working through multiple layers (like in a directory).

Cons

  • You need to find the linking page in the first place; this usually requires using a search engine or directory.
  • Like directories, you may find out of date material and broken links, depending on how often the page creator updates the site.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.