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The Library: Web Guide

Searching for information on the Web seems like the answer to every research assignment. Yet there are some lurking pitfalls for the unaware student.

Almost anyone can build a Web site, dealing with what ever subject they wish. No one is checking their knowledge of the subject or even if the information they post is correct. Web sites are impermanent and may be "here today and gone tomorrow." With a few basic skills and some common sense guidelines, you should be able to locate information you need and be able to differentiate between legitimate and questionable sources.

Search Engines

There are over 14,000 general and specific search engines and subject directories. The three types most often used by both the novice and the experienced are single search engines such as AltaVista, metasearch engines (which search multiple databases) such as Dogpile, and subject directories (a single database of URLs selected and arranged by humans in broad categories) such as Yahoo.

Here are the search engines and directories most often recommended by The Library staff:


AltaVista Yahoo! Dogpile
Google Open Directory Project Metacrawler
Hotbot Beaucoup Mamma
Lycos Ixquick



Search Tactics & Tips

Here a a few general tips for a successful search: 

  1. Be specific. Use "dachshund" instead of "dog."
  2. Use synonyms. In addition to "job," use "employment" or "business."
  3. Match your search to an appropriate search engine. If you are looking for popular, official information (i.e. a government site), try a directory. If you are looking for obscure information, try a metasearch engine.
  4. If the search engine allows you to do so, use Boolean logic.
  5. Read the instructions. Users rarely take advantage of the advance search, search tips or help functions on a search engine's home page.


What to do if you are unable to find the information you need. 

  1. Re-arrange the order of the search terms you are using. Many search engines place greater emphasis on the first word of a request.
  2. Be certain you are capitalizing conjunctions (such as "and," "or" and "not"), if you are using Boolean logic.
  3. Check your spelling.
  4. Find more synonyms.
  5. Contact a librarian and ask for help.

Recommended Sites

We believe the single best Web site for students on the Web is is a student gateway to information and services from the United States government, bringing together a variety of information and services. Through this site you can find the right college, get information about and apply for federal student aid, learn about other educational benefits, and much more.


General Reference Entertainment Electronic Community
How Stuff Works
Internet Public Library
How Things Work

Game House
Internet Movie Database
The Onion
Homestar Runner 
Globe of Blogs
Volunteer Match 
Employment Government Sites Health & Science
Career Builder
United States Postal Service
The White House
The World Fact Book

Cancer Guide
Depression Screening
Just Move
National Library of Medicine 
Humanities New, Media, & Legal Issues Scholarships & Financial Aid
American Memory
History Channel
Merriam-Webster OnLine
One Look Dictionary Search
OnLine Thesaurus
Writers Almanac
Find Law
Houston Chronicle
National Public Radio
Online Newspapers 
College Board
U.S. Department of Education 
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