Using Internet Search Engines

 It is important to learn how to evaluate Internet Web sites well. Their quality and the accuracy of their information can vary greatly.

To effectively use Internet search engines for university research, you must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Search engines are different from periodical indexes, such as EBSCOHost and PsycINFO, in that they are not authoritative indexes/resources for all the information on the Internet. For more information on Internet search engines go to Search Engine Showdown.

Search engines are most useful for finding information when you have a clear idea of what you're looking for, but no idea where to begin looking. If you have a good idea where the information will be, for instance a government agency or newspaper, go to a site that organizes that type of entity, not a search engine.

The more specific you are with your search terms, the more productive your search will be. It is worthwhile to learn and use the special search techniques that search engines provide to help focus your search so you can find more relevant material. The techniques include: including or excluding search terms, exact phrase searching (using quotation marks), proximity searching, and other tools. Each search engine works a little differently, so be sure to check out their Search Tips or Help or Advanced Search options, so you know how they operate.

It is easy to determine Internet site-type at a glance by remembering the following endings:

  • .com for commercial,
  • .edu for educational,
  • .org for other organizations,
  • .gov for U.S. federal government,
  • .mil for U.S. military, and
  • .net for Internet service providers and networks.


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"Henderson State University's biology curriculum prepared me for the academically challenging coursework in graduate school. Additionally, my undergraduate research experience equipped me with the lab skills necessary to succeed in a large scale research laboratory."

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Jessica MeadorBachelor of Science - Biology, 2008
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