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SOCY 122: Introduction to Academic Library Research

Course guide library research tutorial

Searching the Web

In this section we will briefly examine some of the features of web search engines that allow you to construct more effective searches, and we will look at ways of finding quality websites for your research. Critically evaluating the information you find on the Web is absolutely essential; anyone with access to a computer can make a website and content is usually unmonitored. We will look at the criteria for evaluating sources, including websites, in the next module, Using Information.

Effective Searches

In Module 4: Search Strategies, we looked at search techniques for constructing an effective search in a library database. You can apply some of these same search techniques when you are using a search engine - namely:

  • choose effective keywords: use the most important words (and synonyms) that reflect your topic
  • connect keywords with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) if supported by the search engine
  • quotes: use quotation marks to indicate a phrase; there can be additional words before or after the phrase, but the phrase will always stay together in the results

Since Google is the most popular search engine we will look at how it supports Boolean operators (if you use a search engine other than Google, go there now and look at its Advanced Search screen). Here is Google's Advanced Search:

google advanced search

  • All these words is equivalent to "AND" (in other words, search terms are automatially "ANDed" together)
  • This exact word or phrase is the phrase search
  • Any of these words is equivalent to "OR"
  • None of these words is equivalent to "NOT"

Just as scholarly article databases and Summon offer ways to narrow one's search results, Google Advanced Search also offers ways to limit search results by language, last time the page was updated, to specific domains, and where one's search terms must appear (such as in the title of the page or the text of the page):

google advanced search: narrow your results

You can refer to the Best Search Tools Chart for a description on Boolean and other search options available in other popular search engines and Web search tools.

Power Searching with Google

Google offers a self-paced tutorial on advanced web searching with Google. Consider bookmarking this site for when you have time to learn more about advanced searching with Google.