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Magic in the Library

Search the Web Like A Pro

The Internet or The World Wide Web?

Today, you probably hear the terms "Internet" and "World Wide Web" (or simply “Web”) used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

The Internet

The internet came first. The Internet has been likened to a highway and is sometimes called "The Information Highway." It is a gigantic network that links together millions of computer networks around the world and lets them exchange information by using the same network protocols (called TCP/IP), sort of like speaking the same language or following the same set of rules. The original tools for locating and exchanging information via the Internet used text-only commands (i.e. no pictures, no colors, no sounds), and they were used almost exclusively by programmers, scientists and engineers.

The World Wide Web

Today, the Internet’s most commonly used resource is the World Wide Web. “The Web” is much younger, and builds upon the Internet. It uses another protocol, the HyperText Transfer Protocol (http), to link together and deliver a wealth of text, images, video, sound files, computer programs, online conversations and other resources which are stored on computers around the world. Web “browsers” like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome use the hypertext transfer protocol (http) to let you retrieve these text, image and sound files from remote computers and display them on your computer with a mere click of your mouse on a web page link. You don't have to know any of the special text commands used in the early days of the Internet.

When people talk about “the Internet” today, they are usually referring to the World Wide Web.

Web Search Tools

Two of the oldest and most popular tools for finding information on the World Wide Web are:

* Subject Directories (sometimes called "catalogs," "indexes," or "channels") Subject directories take a group of hand-picked Web resources and organize them, usually arranging them by broad subject categories broken down into smaller and smaller subtopics. (With a subject directory, you use someone else's organization to find your topic.)

* Search engines - A type of software which lets you search a selection of  Web resources by typing important words and phrases related to your topic into a search box. (With a search engine, you decide what words and phrases the search engine should look for.)

Subject Directories

General subject directories cover many general-interest topics. In the examples below, ipl2 and INFOMINE are compiled by librarians. The others are also good sources.

  • ipl2: Information You Can Trust
    Excellent directory formed by the merger of the Internet Public Library and the Librarians' Index to the Internet. Browse by categories or use ipl2's own search engine. In addition to general subject categories (Arts, Business, Health, etc.), ipl2 offers a number of special collections such as "Iraq War Resources," "September 11 & Beyond," "Native American Authors," "Deaf & Hard of Hearing." Find out more about ipl2.
    Built by librarians at university & college libraries. "Contains ... databases, electronic journals, e-books, bulletin boards, mailing lists, online library catalogs, articles, directories of researchers, and many other types of information." NOTE: To restrict your searches to only the FREE resources, choose Advanced Search, then pull down the "Resource Access" menu and select FREE. More about Infomine
  • Yahoo! Directory
    Started by 2 Stanford grad students, now one of the largest and most used Web portals in the world. Businesses can pay Yahoo! to consider their websites for inclusion in the Yahoo! directory. While Yahoo!'s portal page includes more popular, flashy categories (Dating, Horoscopes, Games, etc.) its directory offers more traditional categories (Arts, Business, Education, Government, Science, etc.). Yahoo Directory Help
  • uses nearly 800 "guides" who are each responsible for one or more topic websites. Guides "are real people with passion and expertise in their fields." "Covers more than 70,000 topics." Depth of coverage varies considerably from guide to guide. To use the directory, select "Browse Our Channels." You can also select "Explore" to see a list of topics or you can use the search engine. About guides


For fun and games and pretty pictures,
the Web is fine.

But is the Web a good research tool?

The answer is a qualified yes,
and only if you are careful.

What is the Web?

Tutorials About the World Wide Web

These two tutorials provide good overviews and introductions to the internet and the World Wide Web and their search tools.

  • Internet Tutorials: Your Basic Guide to the Internet
    This excellent site, created by librarian Laura B. Cohen, is intended as an introduction for people who want to learn about the Internet and especially the World Wide Web-- What it is, how to search it, and how to use it as a research tool. Topics covered include a discussion of Web basics, an introduction to various search tools, a discussion on how to select a search tool, tips on good search techniques and how to stay current.
  • Internet Guides
    This older introduction offers a timeline of Internet and World Wide Web history in addition to its comments on Web search engines. .

Search Engines

These are probably the most widely used Web search engines today. Yahoo! is also a popular site, but it now uses the bing search engine.

  • Google
    One of the oldest, largest & most popular search engines. In addition to searching for information on web pages, it lets you search inside scholarly articles and books, and lets you search for images, videos, maps, news, blogs and much more. See Google Products, Google Features & SearchHelp.
  • bing
    From Microsoft. Offers a variety of searches and features. In addition to its general Web search engine, Bing lets you search for images, videos, news, maps and more from its homepage. Bing also offers you a link to your search history so that you can return to and modify earlier searches. Visit the Bing Explore page to learn about other features. For advanced search, do a basic search, then click "Advanced" in upper right corner of search results.
  • Google Scholar
    Searches more than web pages-->Shows you excerpts from articles, theses, books, abstracts & court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, & universities. Then you can obtain the complete documents in library databases or via interlibrary borrowing. Use Advanced Search and Search tips. See also Help

Best Search Tools

InfoPeople Best Search Tools chart

This "Best Search Tools" chart from InfoPeople briefly describes several of the major Web searching tools and outlines their key features and search techniques.

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