Internet Research: Tools & Tips

Internet Research: Tools & Tips
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  • 0:03 Definitions
  • 0:58 The Invisible Web
  • 2:01 Tips and Tools
  • 4:14 Future of the Internet
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michelle DeSalvo

Michelle has been an academic librarian for over twenty years. She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Did you know that with a few keystrokes you can easily narrow your Internet searches? In this lesson, you'll learn some simple but effective ways to target your search results. We'll also talk about how you can access the invisible web.


Have you ever thought about how many times you look something up online in one day? Whether you are at work or home, you might conduct many Internet searches throughout the day. With mobile devices, you may be doing even more research than ever before. Knowing a few simple tools and tips can save you a lot of time.

A search engine uses an automated spider program that crawls the web. The spider matches your keywords to the index. Google is only one of many different search engines that are available.

Have you ever tried a search directory? A search directory organizes information into categories. If you are looking for a broad topic, give a search directory such as Yahoo a try. Yet another tool that you can use is a metasearch engine. You can search several search engines all at once. Dogpile is a popular metasearch engine.

The Invisible Web

Did you know that most Internet information isn't accessible by search engines? In fact, the invisible web is many times larger than the regular web. The invisible web includes information that is often hidden from search engines and search directories. You can access a lot of the invisible web through your library. Many libraries have databases on all kinds of topics ranging from business to health, and even streaming video. You can access library databases from home or mobile devices with a username and password. Most of the time, this is a free service. Best of all, you can always ask a library guru for research help.

One more great place to find quality information is Google Scholar, especially if you are doing heavy-duty research. Google Scholar includes many online library journals and makes them user-friendly in a familiar interface. Another tool that you can try is the Virtual Private Library. This online library organizes thousands of invisible web sites.

Tips and Tools

Perhaps the most important step is for you to plan your search strategy even before you begin searching. What keywords will you use? What sites are best for your topic? How will you limit your results?

Consider the different synonyms for your topic. If you are researching coffee, try other terms such as java or mocha.

One of the easiest tips is to use quotation marks. You can use quotation marks on any phrase of two or more words. Quotation marks will connect the words and retrieve them as one concept. For example:

coffee and ''health aspects''

Boolean logic is another way to target your results. Boolean logic is a way to order your search. Let's talk about the AND operator. The term AND is like a plus sign. You are adding topics together. (In this lesson, the Boolean operators are in uppercase for emphasis.):

coffee AND ''environmental impact''

The term OR is a way to broaden your search so that either topic will be present. OR is a great way to look up similar terms:

coffee OR cappuccino

The other Boolean operator is NOT. If you ever want to eliminate a search term, then try the NOT operator. Think of NOT as being like a minus sign:

coffee NOT decaf

Another technique is eliminating stop words from your searches. Stop words are common words that can slow down your search. Common stop words include a, an, of, and for. Try to search by the keywords instead.

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