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Best Search Tools, available from the InfoPeople Project site, gives windows to selected web directories, meta-search engines, and search engines. A link to their Search Engines Quick Guide chart, covering these tools in more depth, is also available from the page. Both provide direct links to the best of the search engines.

Locating Internet Information:

Finding Information on the Internet - One of the best tutorial for internet searching techniques from UC Berkeley. Links to many other useful resources.

Search Engines:

Best for finding sites on specific people, or topics that are described in distinctive phrases or words (not American literature or the like!).

Use the Advanced Search page option whenever available. Advanced Search lets you manipulate your search. Different search engines use different search tools. Check the Comparison Table for searching tips.

  • Google ( - Huge, with growing search options, and often yielding impressively pertinent results by ranking sites by the number of other sites that have linked to them. This favors the older, established sites, but does identify the most highly regarded. Google has expanded its ability to search non-html files, and does well retrieving image files. About a quarter of the included sites are not fully indexed. Despite its deserved popularity, Google does not search the entire Web. Supplement your search with other search engines.
  • Yahoo! Search ( - More flexible search options than those offered by Google, and it has full indexing of all the text on included sites. Yahoo! started as a human-generated tool, and still has something of that flavor.
  • MSN LIVE Search ( - Good searching in Advanced, and a large database. However, it does not retrieve adult content
  • AltaVista ( - Freshly refocused on searching, AltaVista uses Yahoo! results in a less distracting interface.
  • Clusty ( - Provides 'cluster' option, that groups results by perspective. (It's done mechanically, but can be helpful in narrowing in.)
  • Ask ( - Uses ExpertRank algorithm to determine subject-specific popularity, their brand of editing for relevance.

Metasearch Engines:

A metasearch engine sends your query to multiple search engines simultaneously, and reports their results, often sorted by search engine. Since the search protocols vary from one search engine to the next, you're unable to refine your search to take advantage of specific features.

  • Zuula ( - Allows you to compare results in six search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, Gigablast, Exalead.
  • Dogpile (, Metacrawler ( - These search Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, Ask, About, LookSmart, etc. Dogpile can sort by search engine.
  • Kartoo ( - A great source for the visually-oriented. Arranges search results in a conceptual map, which allows you to see connections and dig further in interesting spots.
  • Polycola ( - originally GahooYoogle, comparison of Yahoo and Google search engines.

Specialized Search Engines:

Some search engines select segments of the web based on subject. Search Engine Watch provides lots of information on Specialty Search Engines. (

  • Google Scholar (
    An academically-oriented specialized search engine, listing journal articles and books whose citations are found on the public Web, or which are listed in indexes with whom Google has agreements. This is an excellent, if occasionally woolly, means of identifying the growing literature contained in open access journals - but be careful of the level of authority. Much of the material is not available full-text, or is available only for a price. Check Drew's resources before you pay a cent! Use the academically-based indexes and abstracts available on the Library's Research Resources page for more complete lists of journal articles and books. Still stronger in the sciences than in the humanities or social sciences.
  • Google Book Search (
    A real revolution in progress here! Google Book lets you search the text of books for which there is an electronic copy available. It's most likely to permit access to books that are out of copyright. However, some publishers are allowing at least 'snippets' to be available for searching. As in Amazon's Search Inside the Book, you may be limited in the number of pages you can view.
  • A list of Google specialty search engines ( - Google images, Google blogs, Google finance, etc.
  • ALA-RUSA Best Free Reference Web Sites. This site provides an alphabetized index of the "Best Free Reference Websites from 1999 - 2013.

Invisible Web Searching:

The invisible or "deep web" is not indexed by search engines for a variety of reasons including: no sites link to this information; the information is dynamically generated; the information is password protected; various technological reasons. A library catalog is a good example, but statistics, legal information, some full-text resources are other types of sources that are publicly available, but not directly retrievable.

To find such information, think of general terms for your topic, and include the term "database" in a search engine query. Or use directories.


are a great way to access both the visible and invisible web. Directories arrange sites by topic. Most directories list recommended site. Some of the below directories are compiled by editors or librarians. Most permit you to search for terms without going through the hierarchy of subjects.For focused directories, use a search engine to search for your topic and "web directory."

Some useful, general but very selective public directories are:

Useful Tools:

Evaluating web sites:

Caveat emptor!  Be critical of web sites.  While you can't always assess the actual information provided, there are a host of clues to help you sort out The Good Stuff:

1.  Authority clues:

  • Who wrote it?  Is a name or organization provided?
  • Are the credentials of the author or sponsoring agency provided?
  • What domain is it in?  Is it for-profit?  An organization?  A government site?
  • Does it provide footnotes links to other web sites?   Are they reputable sites?
  • Is the page subject to an editorial process? 

2.  Objectivity clues:

  • Is the purpose of the page clear?
  • Is it designed to shape readers' opinion?
  • Do the facts presented correspond to your best understanding of the topic?

3.  Currency clues:

  • Does the page indicate when it was produced?
  • Does it indicate when it was updated?
  • Do the links work?

4.  Audience:

  • Is the intended audience of the site identified?  
  • Is the audience appropriate with your project?

A word on Wikipedia:
Just a couple of links that discuss Wikipedia.