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Tutorial: The World Wide Web (WWW)

5. Using an Internet Search Engine

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While portals provide a guided and categorized means to access information, sometimes we want to be more specific about the topic we want to find and portals generally are not able to provide this in a timely and efficient manner. An alternative is to utilize a search engine.

A search engine as the name implies, allows you to query it about some specific subject and it will try to retrieve links to web pages and resources which contain information about the subject matter being queried.

The popular search engines available are:

  • Google (www.google.com)
  • Altavista (www.altavista.com)
  • Lycos (www.lycos.com)
  • Yahoo (www.yahoo.com)

There are also sites which allow you to search using more than one search engines e.g.

  • Search.com (www.search.com)
  • Easysearcher (www.easysearcher.com)

Search Basics

While each search engine will have its own technology, its utilisation to perform a simple and basic search is essentially the same irrespective of which search engine is used.

To use a search engine for basic searches, you just type in a few descriptive words about the item/subject you are searching for. It will return to you a list of links to web pages and resources which contain all the words in the query string. Note that common words like “the”, “a”, “how” etc. are usually ignored by the search engine unless specifically told not to. Words are also not case sensitive unless enclosed by quotation marks. To refine and narrow down your search, you will need to add more words to the search terms you have already entered. Your new query will return a smaller subset of the pages found.

Click to view screen shot Fig 8.8 A Search Engine

The basics of using current search engines is essentially keyword matching and so it is important to be able to identify appropriate keywords so that your search is more efficient and false hits are minimized. The keywords entered should be as specific as possible in order to get better results.

More details on how to use each particular search engine are available on their respective websites and they should be consulted so that you can make efficient use of them.

Example

In this section we shall show an example of how to use a search engine.

In this example, assume that we have heard from a friend that she has been diagnosed with a foot condition in which her forefoot is in pain and there is numbness as a result of poor blood circulation in one of the toes. We also remembered her telling us that the doctor named the condition as Freiberg disease or some name which sounds like that since the telephone line was not too clear.

Initially we try entering the following keywords, foot pain, in the search engine.

Click to view screen shot Fig 8.9 Search using Common Keywords

As can be seen from the results of the search what we got back was very general and we need to go through each of these links to check if it contains relevant information or links to relevant information. We can narrow down the search if we are more specific about where in the foot the pain is, e.g. forefoot pain. This will give us better results but the list of hits is still long.

Click to view screen shot Fig 8.10 Search using Relevant Keywords

If we remember that the friend mentioned that the doctor gave the name of the condition as something sounding like Frieberg disease, we can try searching for this specific term. The search results improve immediately as can be seen below and in this particular example we have found several links which are directly related to the information we want.

Click to view screen shot Fig 8.11 Refined Search using Specific Keywords

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You are reading
Tutorial: Using Common Mass Storage Peripherals
1. The Mozilla Web Browser (Navigator)
2. Configuring Mozilla Navigator
3. Finding Information on the Internet
4. Using a Portal
5. Using an Internet Search Engine

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