Online Writing Lab

Effective Internet Searches


Using a search engine, such as Google, to search the entire internet for a particular topic can result in an overwhelming amount of information.  Furthermore, because a basic internet search examines all types of sites, it will often provide links to sites that are not credible and are not appropriate for use in an academic essay. 

Fortunately, there are ways to make internet searches more efficient.   The following is a list of tips that can be used when using the search engine Google:

Search specific types of sites:  Are you primarily concerned with finding a specific group of sites (such as .gov or .edu) for your essay?  You can limit your Google search to look only for sites that end with specific extensions (these are also called domains).   To do this, enter site: followed by the site extension you want and the terms you are searching.  For example, if you are writing an essay on the effectiveness of standardized testing and want to view only sites that end in .edu, enter site: edu effectiveness of standardized testing into the search bar.

Search a specific site:   Google has the ability to search a specific website for information.  For example, if you remember reading a story in the Denver Post about a specific topic several months ago, but can’t remember exactly when the story was published or what it was called, you can enter site: denverpost followed by your topic or keywords to try and find that very article.  Doing this will result in specific links from the Denver Post website.

Exclude terms:   If you are searching for information about the Vikings (the Norse explorers) and don’t want to be inundated with information about the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League, enter Vikings –Minnesota.  Doing this will help prevent Google from generating links to Minnesota Viking football related sites.

Definition and Search:  If you are performing an internet search for a term you don’t entirely understand, put define before any work and Google will give you a definition at the top of the page, followed by results.  For example, entering define photovoltaic will provide a definition for this technology and links to sites that detail its use. 

All of these options, and others as well, are available by using Google’s Advanced Search Page, found here:  http://www.google.com/advanced_search

Using Databases
Specific databases can also be used to search for various types of internet sources.  Some of these databases can even locate information from sites that normally require a membership to view.   Most databases are not available to the public and require a membership to use.  Fortunately, Aims students have access to a variety of databases through Kiefer Library. 
Here is an alphabetized list and description of the databases available to Aims students.