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Friday, August 12, 2011

Searching with Google

I just spent time with family and I realized that most people really have no idea how to search the web. Most people 'google' when they want to find something, but is it effective?

When you put a search term into Google it automatically finds MILLIONS of pages. Sometimes they are not what you want at all. Here are some tips that might help you find what you want more quickly:

1. Reading search results is a new type of reading that they do not teach you in school. Here are some important things to remember. I will use the example that your child (or you) have a stomach ache that you want to find more about:

  • Ads are always the first things at the top of the page and down the right side. People are paying to have their ads show up in these locations. Click on them first if you want to purchase something. Sometimes they can be helpful even for information about something, but be aware of why they come to the top.
  • Right below the name of the site is the URL (or web address) of the site. You can tell A LOT by breaking the URL down. is called the kernel. Often by the name you can tell if it is what you want. For example when searching for "stomach ache in children" I found this might be a helpful site, but I can tell that it is a person giving advice. It may or may not be the information you seek.
  • Search Tools - Along the Left side of the page you may see something that says "show search tools"

When you click it you will see a list of different ways to search. One of my favorite is that Google can help me find the latest news on something when I click "past hour". There are also very visual ways of searching. Try these different searches out and see if there is anything helpful for you!

2. Search basics - When you search you will have the most success if you put in as many search terms that you can think of that relate to what you are looking for.


  •  - A minus sign narrows your search. For example when searching for snakes I might put -plumbing so that I just get animals.
  • "" Quotation marks mean that there is a phrase you are looking for. "1011 Olive Street" I don't want the search engine to return a bunch of results on 1011.
  • Google also makes suggestions when you are typing in your term. Sometimes clicking on one of these is helpful.
  • Advanced Search-Google will do all of this and more for you if you chose the ADVANCED SEARCH.  It will give you a screen that will help you to narrow down your search.
3. Other Search Engines

Contrary to what many people think Google is NOT the only search engine. In fact the WEB is so huge that it is impossible to really search everything. There are many other search engines and some of them are specialized to find certain types of websites. At the top of the screen you may have a pull down like I do that makes it easy to change to a different search engine. Here is a list of other search engines to try:

Most of these search engines were found at on the Webquest page which is a project of Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University. There are more at this link.

  • Alta Vista was one of the best search engines before Google came along. It has been purchased by Yahoo and so when you do a Yahoo search it goes to Alta Vista. 
  • There are a few search engines that actually search OTHER search engines and put all of the results onto one page. Here are two of them Dogpile-   and Webcrawler-
  • Microsoft has come out with a very different search engine. It is really worth trying. It searches in a whole different way. Bing-
  • Delicious allows you to search the bookmarks of millions of other people who have made their bookmarks public. The benefit of this is that you are finding things that other people thought were helpful. (Delicious is so helpful I will talk about it also in another post).
  • Internet Movie Data Base is where to go when you want to find out ANYTHING about a movie. It is amazing!
  • If you need a map here are two map databases Perry Castenada Library at UT- and Mapserver-
  • You can find any Webcam that you are interested in looking at here: Earthcam-
  • Technorati is a search engine for blogs. It goes out and searches blogs for the terms you are interested in. 

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