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Research Process: Searching the Internet

Guidelines for a successful research experience. Adapted from the Copley Library Guide,


Getting Started

Search engines search electronically whereas most search directories use human editors to exclude irrelevant sites and include beneficial ones.  Wikis invite contributers to write and edit articles mostly without authoriship.  Understanding the pluses and minuses of each of these search tools will help you to determine when they are appropriate to use for particular high school research assignments.

Explore information in the Search Engines, Search Directories, and Wiki boxes and read the following tips. 

Tips For Using Search Engines:

  • Search engines are best when searching for specific things such as “revolutionary war diaries” as opposed to the more general “war”
  • Use specific academic terms such as “climate change”
  • Use exact phrases such as “research on medical marijuana”
  • Go to Advanced Search tools to refine searches

Tips For Using Search Directories:

  • Read the annotations (summaries of sites written by directory editors) for your top results to see if you are on the right track
  • Browse subject categories
  • Keep search terms broad
  • Check sites for searching tips as all directories are organized differently
Tips for Using Wikis:
  • Read about the wiki you are using to see how it is managed and organized.  For example, Wikipedia relies on a vast number of dedicated volunteers to correct articles that don’t meet its standard for content neutrality (no bias or limited points of view) and verifiability. 
  • FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH always verify facts presented on a wiki with credible sources such as books. 
  • Always check with your teacher to see if wikis are acceptable.  Most teachers will require credible verifiable sources for academic research. 

Google Tips and Tricks Every Student Should Know

One More Tip : When searching type

  • your term and (: gov} for government sites
  • your term and (: edu) for education sites
  • your term and (: org) for organizational sites

Search Engines

Search engines use complex computer programs to index websites, and these enormous indexes can then be searched using keywords. Search engines rank pages depending on relevancy (how many times a keyword appears on a webpage), proximity (where a keyword appears on the page) and popularity ranking (how often other sites link to the page).  

It’s important to remember that search engines search electronically whereas most search directories use human editors to exclude irrelevant sites and include beneficial ones.  Search engines are businesses that rely on ad revenue.  Search engines in order of popularity are GoogleYahoo, and Bing.

 Using Wikipedia : Gives guidelines and discusses limitations.(Carleton College)

Search Directories

Search directories use expert editors to select and organize websites.  Some directories are more tightly organized than others so it’s a good idea to read about how a particular directory is organized before you use it. 

Here is an example : 

Internet Public Library/Librarians’ Index   (ipl2) Good spot to research any discipline. Search this directory of thousands of handpicked, screened and annotated web sites. 


Use SweetSearch to locate evaluated websites.