Drew University Library

Guide to General Public Web Searching

On this page:

Scope: This page describes searching the public portion of the Internet. It does not address searching for journal or magazine articles, or for other copyrighted material. To search for such sources, check either the Library's Research Resources (http://depts.drew.edu/lib/research.html) or, for more general resources, the New Jersey funded Jerseyclicks (http://www.jerseyclicks.org), for which you'll need a public library card.

Locating Internet Information:
For an overview of Internet searching techniques, check out UC Berkeley's great tutorial, Finding Information on the Internet.  It can help you define your search, select an appropriate search tool, and use it effectively.

You can find lists of sites that are recommended by Drew's librarians at Recommended Online Sources by Subject on the Library's hompage.

Directories:  For overviews and background information, use subject directories that arrange sites by topic.  Generally, these directories list recommended sites.   Most permit you to search for terms without going through the hierarchy of subjects. For focused directories, use a search engine to search for your topic and "web directory." Some useful, general but very selective (well, more selective than Yahoo or About.com) public directories are:

Academic Info (http://www.academicinfo.net/)
A directory built by volunteers, with a primary audience of high school and college students.
Watch out for "sponsored" sites.

Infomine (http://infomine.ucr.edu/)
The University of California/Riverside's list of recommended sites. A bit stronger on the scientific/technical end than many other academic directories. Expand your search by adding "Robot Selected."

BUBL Information Service (http://bubl.ac.uk/link/)
An academic, UK-based directory of recommended sources, with annotations.

Librarians' Index to the Internet (http://lii.org/)
An extremely selective list, maintained by the UC Berkeley Library. (Berkeley does good work!)  Each link has a helpful description. Slightly less academically oriented than the other directories listed.

Specialized Directories: Use these for more focused results that have been reviewed by an expert in the field.

MedlinePlus (http://medlineplus.gov)
Produced by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Findlaw (http://findlaw.com)
Provides access to legal text, lawyers, some articles.

Search Engines:  For information on specific people, or on topics that are described in distinctive phrases (not American literature or the like!), try search engines, and use boolean searching to narrow or expand your query.  Want more information on specific search engines and their features?  Check the Comparison Table.

Google (http://www.google.com)
Huge, with growing search options, and often yielding impressively pertinent results by ranking sites by the number of other sites that have linked to them.  This favors the older, established sites, but does identify the most highly regarded. Google has expanded its ability to search non-html files, and does well retrieving image files. About a quarter of the included sites are not fully indexed. Despite its deserved popularity, Google does not search the entire Web. Supplement your search with other search engines.

Yahoo! Search (http://search.yahoo.com)
More flexible search options than those offered by Google, and it has full indexing of all the text on included sites.

MSN Search (http://search.msn.com)
Good searching in Advanced, and a large database. However, it does not retrieve adult content

Teoma (http://teoma.com)
Good at pulling up those metasites that lead you to selected information. Although it's smaller than Google or Yahoo, they're hungry, and trying hard.

Metasearch Engines: A metasearch engine does not directly index information on the web. Instead, it sends your query to multiple search engines simultaneously, and reports their results, often sorted by search engine. Since the search protocols vary from one search engine to the next, you're unable to refine your search to take advantage of specific features.

Dogpile (http://dogpile.com), Metacrawler (http://metacrawler.com)
These search Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, AskJeeves, About, LookSmart, Overture, FindWhat. Dogpile can sort by search engine.

Kartoo (http://kartoo.com)
A great source for the visually-oriented. Arranges search results in a conceptual map, which allows you to see connections and dig further in interesting spots.

Specialized Search Engines: Some search engines select segments of the web based on subject. To identify these narrower search engines, which are often closely akin to subject-oriented metasites, check Search Engine Watch's continually updated article, "Specialty Search Engines" (http://searchenginewatch.com/links/article.php/2156351).

Lawcrawler (http://lawcrawler.findlaw.com/)
The same folks who brought you Findlaw.

OmniMedicalSearch (http://www.omnimedicalsearch.com/)
A metasearchengine that uses multiple medical search engines to return results. For consumer health, choose "Basic" from the "All Engines" drop-down.

Additional search engines and directories, recommended by Drew Academic Technology

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