The Search Engines:
Finding What You Need on the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web has been called the largest functioning anarchy in
existence. This label is not far from the truth. The global size and open
nature of the Web are both its best and worst feature. It is a powerful
medium for self expression, providing anyone with Web access the opportunity
to make their voice heard. Unfortunately with so many voices being heard, it
can be hard to find what you want. This is where search engines come in
How Search Engines Work
Search engines collect and catalog the millions and millions of web pages
and assemble a searchable database of those pages. Gathering information on
these pages can be a daunting task. New web pages spring up constantly and
are taken down just as quickly. Search engines use two different methods to
gather information about new web pages.
Add URL Button
The first method relies on the web page designer to register the web page
with a search engine. For example, if you wish to register a new web page
with Yahoo, you would need to first select a suitable category from Yahoo's
list of available subjects. Once the category is selected, click on the "Add
URL" button and fill in information about the web page in the fields
provided. This method provides useful information about the site, but is
limited by the fact that many web pages are never registered. It also
requires you to register with several different search engines, typing in
the same information over and over again.
The second method used by search engines for gathering web page
information is called a "web spider." Web spiders are programs that scan for
new web pages continuously. Once a new page is found, the web spider gathers
information about the page and returns it to the search engine for
cataloging. Although this method is more thorough when gathering information
it is can be less accurate. Most web spiders look only at a few lines of
information on a page. This brief bit of information is used to create a
summary and assign key words for the page. The summaries often consist of
only the first paragraph of the page itself, so they are sometimes less than
The result of these two methods is that each search engine has different
Which Search Engine Should You Use?
It's helpful to try all the different search engines until you find one
you like. Here is a listing of a few search engines for you to try:
A Simple Search
Search engines have very similar features, a blank field to type in
search terms and a button to begin the search. For the following examples we
will be using Search.Com
The Search Button
In the case of a simple search we could type in the word "Orange" and hit
enter on the keyboard or click the search button. A search like this can
yield thousands of results from the color orange, the fruit, the movie
"Clockwork Orange" or any number of other "orange" things. The trick is to
narrow your search by using a more specific set of search criteria.
Narrowing Your Search
If you type in more than one search term, most search engines will give
results that contain both terms. For example, if we do a search and type in
"Orange Fruit," we have cut the number of results in half.
More Focused Search Results
If we type in "Orange Fruit Drink" we cut our results down even further.
The Expert Search
The next section of this article explains how to get the most out of an
Internet Search engine. Learn how to use Boolean language to create a
precise search, search the Usenet Newsgroups, find maps to the far flung
reaches of the Earth, and get the e-mail address of your long-lost cousin
Most Search engines allow you to modify your search in various ways, this
is sometimes called an expert search. An expert search allows you to use
qualifiers (also called Boolean terms); and, or, not, etc. You could use
these qualifiers to search for "Orange or Fruit or Drink" which would return
results containing any of the three terms. Using the qualifier "not" allows
you to exclude certain results. For example, searching for "Orange and Fruit
not Drink" would give you results about orange and fruit, but no results
about drinks made with orange fruit.You may also have the option to search
for an exact phrase. If you did an exact phrase search for "orange drink"
the search would find the following phrase.
Tang is a tasty orange drink.
But it would not find this phrase:
I was wearing an orange shirt when we went to the corner restaurant to
have some nachos and a drink.
Boolean terms are words such as and, or, not, etc. that help define a
AND - Finds only documents containing all of the specified words or
phrases. For example, orange AND drink finds documents containing both the
word orange and the word drink. OR - Finds documents containing at least one
of the specified words or phrases. For example, orange OR drink finds
documents containing the words either orange or drink. The found documents
could contain both, but do not have to. NOT - Excludes documents containing
the specified word or phrase. For example, orange AND NOT drink finds
documents with orange but not containing drink. NOT cannot stand alone. You
must use it with another operator, like AND. For example, some search
engines will not accept orange NOT drink; instead, you will need to specify
orange AND NOT drink.NEAR - Finds documents containing both specified words
or phrases within 10 words of each other. For example, orange NEAR drink
would find Tang, but not likely information on the color orange or
information about fraternity drinking games.
Search engines can also be used for finding people on the Internet. The
site, http://www.four11.com/ will let you look for a person's e-mail address
using their first and last name (and their domain if you know it).
Most search engines also provide help files which will guide you on your
quest for information on the Internet. Remember, always try to narrow your
search as much as possible. This will allow you to find the information you
need on the World Wide Web quickly, without having to browse through
thousands of pages. Experiment with the different search engines to find out
which one suits your needs. With practice, you will find that searching for
information is not as hard as you think.
Search engines can also help in finding directions and obtaining maps of
specific locations. For example, you can go to http://www.mapquest.com/ and
type in the address 3936 NW 31 Terrace, Gainesville, FL 32036, USA to see
where the address is.
When Mapquest presents you with your map, you can use the Zoom Level
links to the right of the map to zoom in or zoom out to get the view you
want. You can also use the directional links surrounding the map to nudge
the map in any direction you choose. Other links on the page will allow you
to get directions to a specific place, or tell you the location of the
closest airport or ATM machine relative to this location.
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