To learn the best strategies for finding relevant information on the web.
- Search engines v. subject guides: what's the difference?
- Spider-based search engines: Altavista v. Hotbot
- Human-based directories and subject guides
- Specialized search tools
- Where to find more information
1. Search engines v. subject guides: what's the difference?
Search Engines: Search engines, such as AltaVista, create their listings automatically. "Spiders" crawl the web, then a searchable database is created of what they have found. Keyword searching retrieves documents that contain the word or words you enter. Often times this leads to many irrelevant documents that only mention your search terms in passing.
Directories/Subject Guides: A directory such as Yahoo depends on humans for its listings. Humans collect and read web pages and decide what categories to list them under. You can then browse through the categories to find lists of relevant web sites. Often a search button is included to help you find which categories your topic is listed under. The total scope of a directory like Yahoo is much smaller than a search engine (thousands instead of millions of documents), but your search results are often much more relevant than with search engines.
Exercise for part 1: Identifying search engines vs. subject guides/directories
For each example say whether it is a subject guide, search engine, or both:
- Lycos AtoZ
2. Spider-based search engines: Search Tips
From AltaVista's help screen: (field searching)
- This article is worth reading: Search Engines: What They Are, How They Work, and Practical Suggestions for Getting the Most Out of Them
- Review your understanding of Boolean searching by reading this Boolean Search Primer.
- Understanding the search engine: read the help section
Keyword Function anchor:text Finds pages that contain the specified word or phrase in the text of a hyperlink. anchor:"Click here to visit AltaVista" would find pages with "Click here to visit AltaVista" as a link. applet:class Finds pages that contain a specified Java applet. Use applet:morph to find pages using applets called morph. domain:domainname Finds pages within the specified domain. Use domain:de to find pages from Germany, or use domain:org to find pages from organizations. host:name Finds pages on a specific computer. The search host:altavista.digital.com would find pages on the AltaVista computer, and host:dilbert.unitedmedia.com would find pages on the computer called dilbert at unitedmedia.com. image:filename Finds pages with images having a specific filename. Use image:elvis to find pages with images called elvis. link:URLtext Finds pages with a link to a page with the specified URL text. Use link:altavista.digital.com to find all pages linking to AltaVista. text:text Finds pages that contain the specified text in any part of the page other than an image tag, link, or URL. The search text:cow9 would find all pages with the term cow9 in them. title:text Finds pages that contain the specified word or phrase in the page title (which appears in the title bar of most browsers). The search title:Elvis would find pages with Elvis in the title. url:text Finds pages with a specific word or phrase in the URL. Use url:altavista to find all pages on all servers that have the word altavista in the host name, path, or filename--the complete URL, in other words.
- 2 different approaches to "dynamic categorization":
(try searching "dvd" on each)
Excercise for part 2: Field searching in Altavista or Hotbot
Choose either Altavista or Hotbot.
- Find pages about signal processing from .edu sites. and find pages about signal processing from .com sites. How do they differ?
- Find pages with the phrase "time zones" in the title.
- Find out how many pages link to www.bose.com:
b) from .edu sites
c) from .com sites
d) from sites in japan
- Find pages on the host www.hilton.com that mention webtv.
- Find images of a tornado.
- Using Northern Light's custom folders, find conference pages on signal processing.
3. Human-based directories and subject guides
- Try Yahoo for a general guide. (Yahoo's help screen)
- Try Search.com or the Mining Company for specific subject guides.
Example of a specific subject guide: FindLaw (a great directory of legal information on the Net!)
- Try Web Sites for Bose Employees.
Excercise for part 3: Finding specialized subject guides
Look at Web Sites for Bose Employees/searching to find subject guides.
Use The Mining Company find a guide to:
Put each one in your bookmark file.
- business travel
- distance learning
4. Specialized search tools
Start here: Web Sites for Bose Employees: Searching
- Meta-search engines: Dogpile
- Search for domain names: Check domain status
- Search for FAQs: FAQ Finder
- Search for images & sounds: Lycos Pictures & Sounds Multimedia Directory
- Search for newsgroups: Deja News
- Search for stories in the news: Newsbot
- Searching for people: WhoWhere?
- Search for shareware: Shareware.com
- Search for web site reviews: Scout Report Signpost
Excercise for part 4: Using specialized search tools
- What are they saying about GM electric cars in the newsgroups? Find and bookmark one message.
- Find a picture of a Corvette. Download a copy to your hard drive (temp directory). Add it to your bookmarks.
- Think of a domain name for your new (imaginary) web site and find out if it's been taken. Write down your domain name if it's unique, or write down who already has the name you wanted.
- Find a FAQ on satellite TV. Add it to your bookmarks.
- See if you can find out what "mp3" is by searching for news stories that mention it. Write down the definition of mp3. What is the latest controversy surrounding the use of it?
- Think of someone you knew in high school (who you no longer know the whereabouts of) and try to find their address and phone number. Do they have an email address? Email the answer to yourself.
- Find a shareware screensaver module for your own computer (Mac, Windows 95 or Windows NT). Bookmark your search results page.
- Which 2 search engines return the most hits on the phrase "bose wave radio?" Write down your answer.
- Choose either the Scout Report for Science & Engineering, or the Scout Report for Business & Economics. Browse through the current issue and pick 1 or 2 sites your are interested in. Email the URL and description to yourself.
5. Where to find more information:
- Best articles on understanding search engines:
- How Search Engines Work
- Searching the Internet, part 1: Search Engines
- Searching the Internet, part 2: Subject Catalogs
- Site-ation Perl Growing
- "Can you trust your search engine?"
- Comparison of seven search engines
- Internet Public Library: Links to Search Engines
- Choosing an Internet Service Provider:
- Article from NUA Internet Surveys on best ISP