Most search engines work this way.
So, you've done your search. You have some results. Probably a lot of results. Probably a lot of pages of results. How do you find what you need? How do you know that the best page for you is not 30 pages into the results?
The first step is to think about how the search engine you are choosing ranks the results. You may have noticed this process in some of the Library's online research tools and the way they rank records of periodical articles -- the default is usually newest articles appear first, but there are other ways to arrange the article records, including alphabetically by author, alphabetically title of periodical, and (most importantly for this discussion) by relevance.
Relevance sorting is done by formulas (called "algorithms") run by the search engine. Sadly, the exact workings of these formulae are secrets of the companies that create the search engines or databases, but they all look at at least some of the following:
While you can't know exactly which of these criteria your search engine is using, the important thing is to realize that something like this is going on, and, by understanding that, you can guess what is going on. You might try similar searches in more than one search engine to find out if one ranks material you find useful higher.
Once you have selected a couple of pages to look at, the next step is evaluating the page to see how useful it is. This is pretty much the same process you would use for evaluating a book or an article, but with some extra steps. This is a critical step! It is easier to find material online than in print, but it is way easier for that material to be wrong, fraudulent, or biased, too!
Standard Evaluation Tools (print and online)
Web-Specific Evaluation Tools
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