This article explains the differences in search tools and offers tips on maximizing the effectiveness of any internet search.

Effectively searching the Internet requires an understanding of the different types of available search tools.

Search Engines:

A search engine is a searchable database of internet files collected by a computer program. Use a search engine when looking for the most current information, a particular web site, or have a specific research question. Here are a few examples:

Meta Search Engines:

Meta search engines submit searches to multiple search engines simultaneously and return aggregated results. Examples include the following:

Subject Directories:

A subject directory, unlike a search engine, is created and maintained by human editors, not electronic spiders or robots. Editors review and select sites for inclusion in their directories. Directories tend to be smaller than search engine databases, typically indexing only the home page or top-level pages of a site. Popular subject directories include the following:

Natural Language Engines:

These tools allow users to ask questions such as: "What is the busiest highway in the United States?" or "How can I improve my test taking abilities?"

Specialized Search Tools:

There are also some specialized search tools available.

  • Wolfram AlphaNew Window is a computational knowledge engine that generates output by performimg computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links.
  • EsearchNew Window is available for UT constituents and provides access to all of our subscription databases.
  • Google ScholarNew Window provides a broad search of scholarly literature.
  • Google BooksNew Window helps you find the perfect book for your purposes and discover new ones that may interest you.

General Search Techniques:

Limit searches by defining the search field: For example, title:home birth would limit results to articles where home and birth are part of the title.

Limit searches to specific phrases: To find exact terms, use quotation marks. Searching for "batch processing software" returns 8,900 hits while searching for "batch processing" combined with "chemical manufacturers" reduces the hits to 26.

Boolean Operators: These include terms such as +, -, NOT, OR and limit searches. While the operators vary slightly from one engine to the next, here are some basic guidelines:

Cat +Siamese retrieves records in which both search terms are present.

Dog -Collie retrieves records about dog breeds excluding collies.

Dating OR matchmaking retrieves records that contain either term.

Limit by file type. Example: To limit to a pdf type filetype:pdf

Use the Google's Advanced search to further limit by language, domain, and more.

More information on Google operators can be found on this pageNew Window.

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