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Using the Internet for Research: Types of Search Tools

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

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Tools for Finding Web Sites

There are two main ways of finding web sites:

  • Search Engines
  • Links from trusted web sites

We will spend the most time with search engines, but following links from trusted websites is also useful, so don't forget about that!

Search Engines

You are probably most familiar with looking for sites using a search engine -- you enter your 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

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 archaeology is most likely to link to other sites on underwater archaeology.
  • 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.
  • You may find out of date material and broken links, depending on how often the page creator updates the site.

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