Internet Search Skills


    Lesson 1: What is a search engine and how do I use one for research?


    Internet: A worldwide system of interconnected networks allowing for data transmission among millions of computers

    Internet Search Engine: a computer program that indexes and retrieves documents or files from the internet according to queries from users

    Query: a request made to an internet search engine

    Keyword Search: A search for documents containing one or more words specified by a user in a search engine text box

    Boolean Search: A search that uses the words AND, OR, and NOT along with keywords to focus a search

    Try these searches:

    Assume you are doing a research paper on the topic of "blue whales."

    1. Use Google. Type into the search box: facts about blue whales. Look at the top ten results.

    2. Use Type into the search box: blue whales. Look at the top ten results. Next click on "advanced search" just above the search box. In the "exact phrase" box, type: blue whales. In the "none of these words" box, type: shop buy. In the language box, select English. Click the search button and compare the results with those you got earlier.

    3. Use Type into the search box: blue whales. Look at the top ten results.

    Notes on advanced search options

    For most search engines, advanced search is a simplified way of doing a Boolean search. The Boolean operator AND narrows a search by requiring all key words to be present in the retrieved records. The Excite search engine does this via "all of these words" or "exact phrase" boxes. OR broadens a search, retrieving records with one, two, or all of the key words. Excite uses a box called "any of these words" to do the OR function. Use the OR operator if your topic has several synonyms. NOT excludes a word or words from the search, equivalent to the "none of these words" box on Excite.

    More exercises

    1. Go to and type in the search box: Elvis. Next, click on advanced search. What do you need to do if you want results to exclude Elvis impersonators and Elvis merchandise?

    2. What keywords might be useful if you are planning a science fair project about trajectories of different bullets? About the vitamin C content of fruit juices? About the flammability of building materials?