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WWW Search Engines

Where do I find the URL's (internet address) of the search engines?

The Library of Congress site has links to popular search engines:
LC's search engine site

What is a search engine?

  • From a searchers' perspective:

    On the internet, search engines are in the form of a web page which contains a form into which a user types a text string query, clicks a button, waits a bit, and the engine retrieves a list of Web sites that matches the search criteria.

  • From a technical perspective:

    Search engines are databases of WWW pages and search engines provide search capabilities. Search engines have two components: collection of web pages organized in a database and a search interface so searchers can enter queries.

Why does each search engine give different results for the same query?

Search engines are not alike. They have different characteristics such as:

  • The database content of the search engine: WWW pages, Usenet news, and classified ads.

  • Indexing method
    • How many sites do the search engines claim to index?

    • What method of indexing is used? Full-text
      Parts of the document such as the URL, title, headers, the most frequently used words or part of the text.

    • Search features (these tend to vary among the search engines)
      key word searching
      phrase searching
      boolean searching (the use of AND, OR, and NOT)
      search limiting features: by date, geographic location, domain
      ease of use - a good search interface, display of online documentation such as: HELP, Search Tips, FAQ's, and Advanced Searching capabilities
      display of results - are site summaries included? Are the results ranked? How does the search engine determine relevancy?
      truncation - retrieving several terms by entering only a word followed by a symbol such as * or ?.
      case sensitivity - Does the search engine establish retrieval based on the exact upper and lower case letters?
      weighted search - allows user to control the relevance of search results by preceding works with + or - to increase or decrease the importance of words.

How can I search effectively or gain comprehensive results?

Search more than one database!

Keep in mind good searching techniques:

  • Create an appropriate query; ie, identify the concept and select keywords.
  • Know the correct syntax for each search engine.
  • Does the search engine recognize capitalization?
  • Know how to search by phrases.
  • Does athe search engine support right and middle truncation?
  • Watch your spelling!
  • Refine your search through the use of:

    Boolean Operators: AND, OR, and NOT
    Proximity Operators - specifying how words should be positioned. For example should the words be side-by-side or within 5 or 10 words of each other. (Usually quotes or NEAR are used)
    Precise keywords
    Limit the search by field:

    • link to: (how many documents link to; eg,
    • site:
    • url: (a word appears in the URL)
    • title: title of the document
    • Read the on-line instructions for searching under the following possible headings: Help pages, FAQ's, Searching tips and Advanced Searching.

    Keep in mind the following conclusions:

    Search engines are evolving - the search interface and search features may change.

    Search engines are trying to keep upwith the volume of information on the WWW.

    A continued challenge of search engines is:

    • How to find everything on a specific subject on the WWW as the universe of networked computers expand and the number of web pages expand.
    • How to index the data and connect the searcher with the single piece of information that is needed.

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