When doing scholarly research, it is easiest to start with a meta-search, because meta-search engines cast a wide net. On the other hand, consulting internet directories is recommended, even if the process is more time consuming, since the contents of directory collections have already been evaluated by an expert. Searching the invisible web, however, frequently turns up the most relevant information, although that requires the patience to explore unfamiliar and often oddly designed sites. Relying on Google and Wikipedia to obtain information is quick and dirty, but very limited and never to be entirely trusted.
Major Search Engines
A search engine is a web site that lists other web sites so that they can be searched either by category or keyword. The following are ranked from top to bottom according to the magnitude of site traffic:
Exalead displays statistics and information about the results along the left-hand side of the page. This includes categorical and geographical information. The index size, as of June 2009, is an over 8 billion pages, 2 billion images, and 200 million videos. A rising contender, from France!
Unlike single source search engines, meta-search engines don’t crawl the Web themselves to build databases. Instead they send search queries to several search engines at once. The top results are then displayed together on a single page. There are dozens of meta-search engines out there; this list presents a few of the more commonly recommended ones.
This meta-search engine combines and collates the results from the five industry leading engines, namely, Google, Yahoo! Search, Bing, and Ask.com, as well as authority sites Kosmix and Fandango.
Each result is awarded one star (*) for every search engine that chooses it as one of the ten best results for a search. So a five star (*****) result means that five search engines agreed on the result. While irrelevant web pages can be "optimized" to fool a single search engine's algorithm, it is much harder for a page to fool all the search engines. In addition, Ixquick’s personal Scoring System enables you to weed out results you really dislike. In effect, you're training your own meta-search engine to comply with your preferences.
This meta-search engine delivers fast, relevant results, and gives searchers many ways to personalize, refine, and explore their results. SiteSnaps allows you to see a quick abstract of the Web page. FocusWords provides a quick list of search suggestions that can help you refine and broaden your search. You can even build SearchSets similar to swikis.
Users can build and customize their search portal on any topic, and share and distribute the social search widget ("swicki") to grow a community of interested users. With every search, the swicki becomes more relevant and meaningful to the user community, and more valuable to the swicki builder. An interesting concept.
A semantic search engine and question answer engine designed to provide customized meaningful search results, such as information about the keyword/concept, answers to the user’s questions, lists of things, relations between the keywords/concepts, and links to the different kinds of related information. Created in 2008, definitely worth a try.
An Internet directory is a collection of data where web sites are reviewed by human beings and placed into the hierarchal categories considered most relevant by these human editors. The major advantage of directories over search engines is the quality of web sites within the collection.
In January 2010, the website "ipl2: information you can trust" was launched, merging the collections of resources from the Internet Public Library (IPL) and the Librarians' Internet Index (LII) websites.
Digital Librarian: A Librarian's Choice of the Best of the Web.
A librarian selected directory of Internet resources relevant to faculty, students, and research staff at the university level. It contains useful Internet resources such as databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, mailing lists, online library card catalogs, articles, directories of researchers, and many other types of information.
A free online service from Great Britain that "helps you to find the best web resources for your studies and research".
An online neighborhood of hundreds of helpful experts, eager to share their wealth of knowledge with visitors.
An online education resource center with extensive subject guides and distance learning information. Its mission is to provide free, independent and accurate information and resources for prospective and current students and other researchers.
Let’s not forget Yahoo!’s valiant attempt to provide a useful directory. It is a human-created and maintained library of sites organized into categories and subcategories.
A struggling attempt to build a directory of useful sites through open participation, similar to Wikipedia.
The terms "invisible web" or "deep web" mainly refer to the vast repository of information that search engines and directories don't have direct access to, like databases. Unlike pages on the visible Web (that is, the Web that you can access from search engines and directories), information in databases is generally inaccessible to the software spiders and crawlers that create search engine indexes.
Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.
This is a portal to deep web databases and to the thousands of regular search engines. Each database is very focused in nature and the sheer numbers of them indicate that there are hundreds if not thousands in any given subject area.
http://oaister.worldcat.org (pronounced "oyster")
This portal provides access to free and public catalog of more than a billion items available from more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. It also scans for contents in WorldCat, world's largest network of library-based content and services.
The Directory of Open Access Journals covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. It aims to cover all subjects and languages. There are now 4798 journals containing over 360,000 articles in the directory.
This the most comprehensive scientific research tool on the web. With over 370 million scientific items indexed at last count, it allows researchers to search for not only journal content but also scientists' homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional repository and website information.
This is a compiled directory listing over 5000 sites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar.
Florida Electronic Library provides access to over 50 available resources, including WorldCat.
As the U.S. government's official web portal, USA.gov makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web. USA.gov also serves as the catalyst for a growing electronic government.
** Note: most of the descriptions above were taken from the websites themselves and altered only slightly for the sake of consistency and fluency.
To narrow a search, add more words to the search line.
Search for key phrases, instead of individual words, whenever possible.
Incorporate Boolean operators into the search line for more exact results.
Which Booleans are processed depends entirely upon the search engine or meta-search engine; usually there is a handy reference page somewhere on the site. The simplest and most universal operators are:
"quotation marks" -- the words "Miami Dolphins" as an exact phrase
AND the words Miami AND dolphins
Most search engines assume the AND operator between words; generally, there is no need for you to include it.
NEAR requires the words to be in proximity, improvement over AND
OR the word Miami OR dolphins
NOT (or) – (minus) the word dolphins NOT Miami, or the word dolphins –Miami
+plus -- the word +dolphin, no plurals or synonyms
Watch capitalization rules. Most search engines ignore capitalization; some respect capitalization only if you encase the capitalized word or phrase in quotation marks.
Use operators. There are a number of handy operators employed to limit the field of the search. Few people are familiar with these.
Use site: to limit to .edu or .gov and exclude most ecommerce sites (for example, add site: edu or add site: gov after the other query words) .
Use url: or inurl: to find a site by words in the url. (Great for guessing!)
Use title: or intitle: to find a site by words in the title line.
Use link: to find who links to a specific page (for example, link: http://www.loc.gov).
Use related: to find related sites (for example, related: http://www.saintleo.edu).
Use info: to find information about the site.
Finally, automatically evaluate the quality of information provided from websites. Read through this guide provided by the library at UC Berkeley.