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A Search Engine is a program that searches documents for specified keywords and returns a list of the documents including those keywords.

Use a search engine when...

  • You have a narrow or obscure topic or idea to research
  • You are looking for a specific site
  • You want to search the full text of millions of pages
  • You want to retrieve a LARGE number of documents on your topic

Search Engine Characteristics:

  • Full-text of selected Web pages
  • Keyword searching
  • No browsing, no subject categories
  • Databases compiled by "spiders" (computer-robot programs) with minimal human oversight
  • Variable size, from small and specialized to over 90% of the indexable Web.

Popular Search Engines:

Search engine tips . . .
  • Different search engines will give different results. Try more than one.
  • Use a plus sign (+) in front of a word or phrase that must be included in your results, or a minus sign (-) in front of words that should be excluded from your results. If you are looking for a specific phrase, enclose it in quotation marks. For Example:
    • "victorian literature"
    • +"Martin Luther King Jr." +childhood
    • +bass -fishing

©2006 - University Libraries , The University of Alabama
adapted with permission from
Healey Library , University of Massachusetts, Boston
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