Searching the Internet: Handy Tips and Search Engines

Using the Internet to Search for Information

Be smart.  Make your life easy.  Follow these five tips to maximise your efficiency when searching the web!

  • First: Read the on-line help.
  • Second: Devise a strategy before you search. Define your topic and choose your keywords.
  • Third:  Use search operators. “And” “or” “+”… use of these often increases the chance of success of your search.
  • Fourth: Be specific.
  • Fifth:  Refine your search. Don’t give up if your first search seems fruitless. Pick up on additional keywords and include them in future searches to narrow your focus.

There are a number of sites available to help you refine your search strategies and techniques.  Of note are:

  1. NoodleTools: Choose the Best Search for Your Information Need
  2. Four NETS for Better Searching

Consider this above no more than a starting point for your inquiries… The world is at your doorstep when you use the internet as a research tool.

A few quick tips follow.  Remember, if in doubt, always apply the CARRDSS Test!

  1. Use mainstream search engines (like the ones accessible below).
  2. Academic (often, but not always, have edu in their URL) and government websites (i.e. for Canada and for Ontario) are generally pretty reliable sources of information.
  3. Academic journals (i.e. The Journal of Geography) and/or Institutional Magazines (i.e. Canadian Geographic) are generally pretty reliable sources of information.
  4. Mainstream magazines like MacLeans and or major newspapers (i.e. The Toronto Star or The New York Times) are generally pretty reliable sources of information.
  5. Look for duplication. Find an independent second source for the material.
  6. Generally avoid personal websites… and or those from special interest and lobby groups. If you do use material from these sources, recognise their inherent bias.

However, as with all commercial ventures (and that is what the internet has become) it is always a matter of buyer beware. Not all websites are created equally. Indeed, there is as much misinformation on the web as valid information. Your job is to learn how to separate the good from the not so good (even the bad).  That is to say you must learn how to assess the quality of the information that you find and sift out the good information. Visit Evaluating Sources (from the drop down menu) for more information.

Search Engines

Web 2.0 Search Engines

The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines

Clustering Search Engines

Sweet Search

Free On-Line eBooks
Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg Canada
Google Books

Specialised Search Engines

Best of History Websites
History on the Web
Research Resources for the Social Sciences
The Virtual Religion Index
Meta-Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Internet Movie Database
Encyclopedia of Television
Internet Broadway Database

Other Useful Sites or Sources

SearchReSearch (A blog about search, search skills, teaching search, learning how to search, learning how to use Google effectively, learning how to do research. It also covers a good deal of sensemaking and information foraging.)

Etobicoke School of the Arts Library
From the ESA Library website…

  • On-line Databases
  • Images and Media
  • TDSB Student Research Guide (Research Toolkit > Research Success @ Your Library)
    Refer particularly to Stage 2: Accessing Resources, Pages 23, 24, 29


Please advise if any of the links breakdown (as is frequently the case with the internet!)