Working with
search engines

Why should you learn to use search engines well?

The world wide web is the primary tool for collecting information and as students you will need to be able to gather good info and filter out the garbage. Yes, there is a lot of garbage. Everyone and their cousin has a web site and who knows if their information is accurate. Search engines are tools to help us navigate through the endless mass of information that is the Internet. Using these tools well will make your school work easier, quicker and less frustrating.

How to use search engines?

First, start you search with the most specific terms that you can. If you don't like the results that come back, gradually use more general terms. Secondly, some search engines allow you to type sentences (like Ask Jeevves), but this is not always the easiest way to find what you want. Instead of a sentence, type the key term only and see what comes up. Usually you'll have more than one key term. In this case, type the terms with a plus sign (+) between the terms. The engine will find all documents or sites that include all the terms. This is called Bolean logic.

Example: If I am doing a paper on earthquakes in New York, it would look like this: earthquake + New York

What else should you know about information on the web?

As I have mentioned before, there is so much info on the Internet that you can literally get lost in it. Not only is there good information, but there is plenty of bad or inaccurate info too. There is a simple way to judge the reliability of the information that you come accross. A web site's address is called its URL and all URL's end with either .com or .org or .gov or .edu. These URL endings tell you something about the organization that puts the information on the Internet. For instance, .edu are school organizations of some type like a college. The least trustworthy is the .com's. Any nut can have a .com web site as evidenced by me having one. This doesn't mean .com's are useless, but be cautious.

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