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DEVS 100: Library Tutorial

Searching the Web

In this module, 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:

  • use search terms that specifically define your topic
  • connect keywords with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) if supported by the search engine
  • use quotation marks to indicate a phrase

Let's look at how Google 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

  • All of the words is equivalent to "AND" (in other words, search terms are automatially "ANDed" together)
  • With the exact phrase is the phrase search
  • With at least one of the words is equivalent to "OR"
  • Without the words is equivalent to "NOT"

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.

Subject Directories

Finding Quality Websites

A useful starting point when you are trying to locate authoritative websites is to consult the Library's Subject Guides. Each Subject Guide contains a list of recommended websites in a particular subject. The Global Development Studies Subject Guide, for example, contains a selective list of useful websites for Development Studies.

Other useful websites include:

Department of Global Development Studies @ Queen’s

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

International Development Research Centre

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFAIT)

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

ELDIS: Electronic Development and Environment Information System

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Subject Directories
Subject directories are large indexes of reviewed websites. While not as large as search engines, these subject directories are created by human editors who review and select sites for inclusion in their directories on the basis of previously determined selection criteria. Two of the most popular academic subject directories are ipl2 and Infomine. Try browsing by subject (e.g. development studies) or search using broad subject keywords.

  ipl2 Infomine

For more information about recommended search engines and subject directories, and for more information about searching the Web, consult the Library's Search the Web guide.