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Search Engines, Subject Direct ories, and Met a-Search Engines

                               by K imbe r ly McCoy

           re you like millions of folks who are      tion that spiders or robots return is used to
           connected to the Internet but have no      match web pages to keywords and phrases re-
           idea how to locate valuable resources      quested by users and provide more compre-
on-line? Hopefully, after reading this article you    hensive results of available sites on the Web.
will be able to locate everything on -line your       Search engines also index words or terms in
heart desires.                                        web documents. Search engines provide a
                                                      large number of possibilities. Many search n-
What ar e Search Engines, Subject                     gines also allow you to retrieve data by brows-
Directories, and Meta-Search Engines                  ing by topic and using the keyword search ca-
                                                      pabilities. Examples of search engines include
Think of search engines, subject directories,          • Lycos
and meta-search engines as a method of storing         • Excite Search
various web sites in various databases. These          • Infoseek
tools search the web and store the information.        • HotBot
Many people assume that all of these search            • Go to
tools work the same, but this is not the case.         • AltaVista
Search engines, subject directories, and               • Webcrawler
meta-search engines are set up and work differ-        • Education World www.educatio
ently. The difficult part about using Internet
search tools is learning and understanding how        Subject Direct ories
each one of them works and which one will             Subject directories usually have smaller data-
work best for your particular needs. Listed are       bases than search engines. Directories classify
some general characteristics of each search tool      web documents or sites into a subject classifi-
                                                      cation scheme; they are usually compiled by
Sear ch Engines                                       hand or in some type of logical order. Subject
Search engines are programs that run on a par-        directories also begin with general topics an
ticular web site. They create their listings y-       allow the user to narrow to a specific category.
namically and search large portions of the Inte  r-   They usually provide limited search results o
net based on information that their “spiders” or      available pages on th Web. The information
“robots” retrieve. Users who want their sites i -     collected from a subject directory will generally
cluded in the search database also submit in-         contain more related information dealing with
formation. (Spiders or robots are automate            a particular subject matter. Information e-
search programs that go through the Web and           trieved from subject directories will not be as
search web pages for keywords). The informa-
                                                                                 (continued on Page 2)
comprehensive as the information located from          For example:
a search engine. Many of these directories include     "autom*"results: automatize, automobile, auto-
browsing and searching capabilities. Examples o        matic or automotive
subject directories are                                "educat*"results: educator, educators, education
 • Yahoo                                  or educationa
 • Nerd World Subject Index           "profes*"results: profess, professor, profession,
 • The Mining Company Subject Site Guides www          professional or professionalism
 • Starting Point                        •   Pl us and Mi nus Si gns
 • Looksmart                            The plus sign used before a keyword or
 • Magellan                            phrase should retrieve results that include
                                                           that specific keyword or phrase. The minus
Met a-Sear ch Engines                                      sign used before a keyword or phrase should
                                                           retrieve results that exclude that specific key-
Meta-search engines don't create their own data-
                                                           word or phrase. Examples of each are listed
base of information. They search the databases of
other search engines. The major advantage of us-
                                                       For Example: (+ Technology + lesson plans)
ing a meta-search engine is that it allows the user
                                                       Results: documents in the databases that have
to search several search engines simultaneously.
                                                       both of these words.
Examples of meta-search engines include
                                                       For Example: (+ Technology - Computers)
 • Metacrawler
                                                       Results: a list of links that has the word
 • Inference                            "technology" in the document but will not include
 • Savvysearch                     any document that has the word "computers."
 • Mamma                                 For Example: (+ Technology + Computers - Inter-
 • Dogpile                            net)
 • Search                              Results: sites that have "technology "and
 • C4                                      "computers" but not "Internet"
 • Profusion
                                                       ***Make sure you read the tips for each
Sear chi ng T echniques & Strategi es                  search to o l. Not a ll search engines su pport
Now that you have a better understanding of the        al l symbol s. Al taVi sta, Infoseek, and Exci te
similarities and differences of search engines         use no spaces between the keywo rds nd the
subject directories, and meta-search engines, it’s     pl us and mi nus s igns. HotBot, Lycos, Goto,
time to learn some searching techniques an             and Webcr awl er don't specify one way or the
strategies. Several searching techniques an            other .
strategies are essential for narrowing search re-
sults and will assist you with locating valuable re-   •   Quotati on Mar ks and Brackets
sources via the Internet. These techniques an              Quotation marks and brackets assist with
strategies include wildcard, plus and minus                narrowing the search results from the search
signs, quotation marks and brackets, pipe symbol,          tools. When quotation marks or brackets are
Boolean operators, and nesting.                            used, the search engine will only retrieve
                                                           documents that have those key terms appear-
•   Wi l dcard                                             ing together.
    A wildcard is a special character that can be      For Example: "Technology and lesson plans" o
    added to a phrase whil searching and the           [Technology and lessons plans]
    search engine or subject directory looks for all   Results: words will be treated as anexact
    possible endings. The results will provide all     phrase.
    possible documents in their database that
    have those letters
•  Pi pe Symbol (|)                                    For Example: Technology NEAR/10 lesson plans
   The pipe (|) symbol, located on most keyboards      Results: documents that have the words technol-
   on the right-hand side between the delete an        ogy and lesson plans within 10 words of each
   return key will assist with narrowing down e-       other
   sults within a broad category.
For Example: Technology|Computers                      ***Curren tly AOL Search, Alta Vista, Lycos
Results: retrieve all documents in the broad cate-     and Webcr awl er suppor t thi s featur e. Read
gory of "technology" dealing with "computers"          the speci fic sear ch tool ti ps for more detai l ed
                                                       i nfor mati on.
•   Bool ean Oper ators
    Boolean operators are used the same way the        •   Nesting
    plus and minus signs are used. The AND Boo-            Nesting allows the user to perform multiple
    lean operator, is similar to the plus sign and         tasks and build a complex search. The paren-
    the NOT Boolean operator is similar to the mi-         theses are used to group the key words and
    nus sign. The OR Boolean operator tells the            Boolean operators together. This is an excel-
    search engine to retrieve one term or the other.       lent technique for complex searching.
For Example: Technology AND lesson plans               For Example: Technology AND (Internet OR World
Results: documents in the databases that have          Wide Web)
both of these words                                    Results: locate all documents that have the word
(similar to using the + symbol)                        "Technology" and "Internet" or "Technology" and
                                                       "World Wide Web."
For Example: Technology NOT Computers
Results: a list of links that have the word            More Tips on Searching
"technology" in the document but will not include      The OLRC Technology team also recommends:
any document that has the word "computers"              • Reading the tips provided by each search n-
(similar to using th - symbol)                            gine, subject directory, or meta-search engine.
                                                        • Using synonyms if you are having trouble with
For Example: Technology OR Computers                      a particular keyword or phrase.
Results: a list of links that have the phrase           • Deciding which search tools (engine, directory,
"technology" or "computers" in the document               or meta-search engine) would work best for
                                                          you and your needs.
For Example: Technology AND NOT Computer                • Using more than one search engine or subject
Results: information with the key word                    directory; this will expand the results of your
"technology" and not "computers"                          search.
                                                        • Making sure the spelling of the keyword or
For Example: Technology AND Computers NOT
                                                          phrase is correct.
                                                        • Being aware that some search tools (engine,
Results: the sites that have "technology" an
                                                          directory, or meta-search engine) have a per-
"computers" but not "Internet"
                                                          cent symbol located on the side of the annota-
(similar to using the + and - symbol)
                                                          tion. This indicates the amount of information
                                                          that is relevant to the key words or phrases.
•   Near
                                                          The higher the percentage, the closer the re-
    The NEAR phrase indicates to the search tools
                                                          sult is to the search criteria.
    that those terms must be located within a c r-
                                                        • Remembering to bookmark your findings.
    tain number of words. The results may vary
    depending on the search tool. To illustrate,
    some search tools may try to locate the terms
                                                                (see “Additional Information on Searching
    within 2, 10 or 25 words of each other. The
                                                                                                on page 4)
    command to use is NEAR/#
                                                                                                 The One-
                                                                                                Stop Cross
     Addi t i onal Information on Searching
•    Learning More about Search Engines and Subject                                               On-line
     Directories FAQs                                                        Still trying to lo-
A complete and detailed set of frequently asked questions                              cate reliable, use-
on using search engines and subject directories.              ful and worthy lesson plans for your ABLE,
• The Amazing Internet Guide                                  ESOL, Family Literacy, or GED students?                                     If so, look no further. This new resource
A wonderful site that contains information on over 20         will allow you to search our database fo
search tools and provides subscription and key tech-          lesson plans on specific topics, see related
niques needed for each tool.                                  topics, and find recommended trade books
• The Search is Over                                          for those topics. The best part is you can              send in your own lesson plans to be added
Excellent web site that provides detailed instructions on     into our database to be used by other edu-
all the major search directories, indexes, and meta-search    cators. For more information about
engines. This site contains the pros and cons of each as      Eureka go to <>
well as which will meet your particular needs
• Search Engine Watch
Tips about Inte net search engines and search engine
                                                                     Great On-line Resources
• Cyward Internet Education: Search Engines &
     Specialized Directories                                     •                                                                    K-
                                                       , designed for K-8 teachers and kids, is a
Information on major and minor search engines, search                        for
                                                                 great way for adult learners to increase and strengthe
                                                                 grammar, spelling, math, science, and history skills.
engines for children, and a directory of specialized search
                                                                                    on- games
                                                                 The site contains on-line games and quizzes dealin
                                                                 with each subject matter listed above. There are tw
• Finding it On-line: Web Search Strategies
                                                                 levels of the quizzes, and positive feedback for correct                       and incorrect answers is provided as well.
An easy-to-understand tutorial on using search engines,
subject directories, and meta-search engines.                    • Learning Resources
• The Spider's Apprentice-Tips on Searching the                  Sponsored by CNN San Francisco an Western Pacific
     Web                                                         Literacy Network, Learning Resources is intended fo                               adults with average reading and speaking skills. Th
Tips on searching for AltaVista, Infoseek, Excite, Web-          activities include full text of each story as well as inte r-
crawler, Lycos, HotBot, and Yahoo. This site rates each          active activities to test comprehension. Learners als
of these search tools and provides a page with FAQs deal-        have the option to read or listen to the stories.
ing with search engines, subject directories, and met -
search engines.                                                  •
• Life on the Internet: Subject Directories and                                                                   Inter-
                                                        offers free "GED" education on the Inter-
     Search Engines                                                    Free-
                                                                 net. does not administer the GED tests.                    However, it does provide resources to learners in order
Extra information on search techniques, subject directo-         to prepare for the actual test. Some of these resources
ries, search engines, or meta-search engines. Life on the        include demonstrating how the tests are set up, helpin
Internet has some great resources.                                                               getting
                                                                 with the subject matters, and getting comfortable wit
                                                                 the way the tests are administered.

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