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Using Search Engines for Online Research

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  • 0:01 Researching Online
  • 0:40 Types of Search Engines
  • 2:45 Conducting Research Online
  • 6:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

The Internet can be a resource that saves you time, but if you don't know how to use it properly, it can be a frustrating experience. In this lesson, you will learn about how to properly find supporting materials online with research tips and tricks.

Researching Online

Abby is working on creating a speech for her government class. She knows that she can do research on the Internet, but she isn't sure where to begin. She tries asking friends on Socialbook and Beaker, her two favorite social networking cites, but she doesn't get the information she needs. How can Abby research her speech using the Internet?

You may know more than Abby about researching. For example, you probably know that researching online is very different from casual browsing. Researching on the Internet is far more focused and has a specific purpose. In this lesson, you will learn about how to use search engines to conduct online research.

Types of Search Engines

Researching on the Internet can be an intimidating task. The World Wide Web is endless, so who knows where to start? First, let's talk about the different types of search engines that are available and how you can use a search engine to help with your research. A search engine is a program that searches for words and phrases in documents, most often in online articles and resources.

Abby can start researching her topic using a large search engine to give her a direction with her speech. In general, there are three types of search engines. You can think of the search engines as general search engines, metasearch engine, and specific search engines.

What I mean by general search engines is the search engine is a more wide-ranging search engine that searches millions upon millions of sites for the information. Some examples of general search engines include Bing, Yahoo!, and Google.

A metasearch engine actually uses other search engines to find the information that you need. You've probably used some sort of website that helped you find the best deal on a flight or hotel booking. A metasearch engine is the same way. You enter the key words and then get a comprehensive list of all relevant cites. Popular metasearch engines include Dogpile, MetaCrawler, Excite, and Blingo.

Abby can use the smaller, more specific search engines that are designed more specifically for the user's needs, such as a periodical database, for history and government topics. You can usually get access to different academic databases through a library. Many of these require a subscription to access the resources you need. Some of these databases include Academic Search, JSTOR, and LexisNexis. Free databases include Astrophysics Data System, Citebase Search, and Directory of Open Access Journals. There are many databases available for your use, so I encourage you to search for your own!

Conducting Research Online

There are two things you must keep in mind when doing any type of Internet research: using keywords and using common commands.

First, keywords are the ideal words used when typing in a search box. For example, if you are researching the different types of government, a good keyword to use would be 'types' and 'government.' But maybe your speech needs to be more specific. You may want the different types of government structures that exist in the United States. Or you want to give a speech over the different government types that exist in the history of England.

This type of researching can get overwhelming and confusing. Remember to just pick out the major words that make these phrases important. It is generally not a good idea to put a long phrase into a search engine. For example, if you want to give a speech over the different government types that exist in the history of England, you may want to start searching 'England government' or 'history of England government.' Be imaginative and tenacious in your researching. Try as many different combinations of words as possible and use different search engines to get your research.

Second, you need to understand how to use common commands when doing research. This is a list of the most commonly used commands when researching:

  • Quotation marks ' '
  • Addition sign +
  • Subtraction sign -
  • Asterisks *
  • OR

When Abby has a phrase that she is researching, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, where she wants to make sure certain words are always included together in the search, she will need to use quotation marks ' ' around the words that need to appear together. Therefore, my search would look like this - the assassination of ' 'John F. Kennedy' ' - with quotations to ensure that those words always appear together. Names aren't the only words you can use quotation marks to search. For example, if you were searching the differences between cats and dogs, you may want to make sure that the phrase 'cats and dogs' always appear together. Therefore, your search would look like this: the differences between ' 'cats and dogs' ' in quotation.

When you are researching and you need to include a certain word in your search, you will use the addition sign +. This will often help narrow the topic area you are researching. For example, let's say you wanted to research information about the special shoes ballet dancers wear when dancing up on their toes. You may decide to research the phrase 'toe shoes.' However, when you get the search results back, all of the results have athletic footwear that conforms to your individual toes. You were not looking for this type of information, so how do you narrow it down? You can search toe shoes +ballet. Now you get search results about ballet. You find that these specialized shoes are called pointe shoes, and you are able to search from there.

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