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ORG 100: Web Search Techniques & Tips

Web Search Techniques & Tips

Search Engines

What happens "behind the scenes" when your search the free or open web?

search engine image

Each search engine (such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing) creates its own index of the Internet.

While Google may be the biggest index, it may not contain all of the sites found in another search engine's index.  You may want to use more than one search engine to find results.

PageRank (trademarked Google technology) refers to the system for ranking or ordering search results.  Oftentimes these results are not based on the quality of the information on the website, but on the website's popularity, or how many other websites link to that websites and how high those websites are ranked.

Additional factors such as location, type of machine, and domains can affect your searches.

Search Tips for the Free Web

The Internet includes a wide range of resources.  Some of them are considered scholarly sources, or sources in which the content is written by experts in a particular field of study.  The purpose of scholarly sources is to share research or analyze findings. These are the types of sources you should seek out for your research.


Search engines gather websites using a electronic "spider" that crawls the web looking for new websites, updates, and deleted sites.

checkmark imagePut words in "quotations marks" to search words as a phrase.

checkmark imageAdvanced search features limit specific domains such as .gov, .org, and .edu.

checkmark imagePut a minus sign (-) in front of words or phrases you want to exclude from your results.

See more tips for searching Google to improve your search results.

Further Considerations: What About Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a site that is often listed at toward the top of search results pages.  

  • The GREAT thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can post to it.  This is good because writers can correct errors and update or improve knowledge on the pages.
  • The BAD thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can post to it. This means writers can introduce errors, either accidentally or spitefully.

Watch the video below to learn the best way to utilize Wikipedia as a college student.

Hartness Library. (2012). Using Wikipedia for academic research. [Video file]. Retrieved from