Living in the information age can be a bit daunting when you first begin to research in your academic career. The internet spans across continents and even in space, with upwards of five billion users each day. With so many users, articles, and information the internet can leave us asking more questions than it can give us answers to: Which sources are reliable? Where can I find the best answer to the question I have? What are other people saying about the topics or fields I am interested in? Luckily, with this guide, a compatible device, and an internet connection, the world is at your fingertips.
If you are working on a class project or paper, the Carlson Library is here to assist you in finding the right sources tailored specifically for you. Getting assistance can make the search easier, quicker, and more accurate to fit the direction and purpose of your topic. So don't be afraid to tackle all your research questions, because you don't have to go at it alone.
A search engine is an easy-to-use and speedy method of generating lists of possible resources. A program called a "spider" crawls the web, finding sites it has not found before, updates sites it has, and deletes sites that no longer exist. It then sends its findings to the engine's database, which is what one browses when one runs a search. The list is displayed in the order of relevance to the original query.
Be cautious, however. While a search engine is thorough, it is not omniscient. It indexes every word it comes across on pages it knows, so a mis-typed search query may generate a lot of irrelevant results.
Improving your search engine results can be easy. Google uses search tools called operators. Operators are symbols, words, or punctuation that can help you narrow down your search focus and tailor your results. Below you can find the most common operators used on Google and how you can use them in your search. (see also Google Basics & more):
|-||Excludes results that include this term. Be sure to leave no space between symbol and term.||Toledo -food|
||||Gives results that match both terms on either side of the symbol. Its the same as writing "OR"||UToledo | BGSU|
|@||Gives search results that match a particular social media username||@utcarlsonlib|
|#||Gives results that focus on a particular hashtag||#GoRockets|
|""||Gives results that only include the words between the quotes in exact order||"Rocky the Rocket"|
|*||Gives results where any word can fill in the place of the asterisk||best * in Toledo|
|..||Gives results that fall within a range between two numbers||T-shirts $20..30|
|()||Groups search terms and controls the search of the terms||(best | worst) Toledo|
|cache:||Shows Google's cached version of a specific website/page||cache:utoledo.edu/library|
|filetype:||Gives results featuring only that specific file type||utoledo filetype:pdf|
|site:||Gives only search results from a particular website||food site:utoledo.edu|
Find much more in our Google LibGuide.
A meta-search engine, as its name implies, searches within multiple search engines to compile its databases. When one runs a search, it displays results found in multiple engines (usually the top hits), which can be very useful in filling possible gaps in coverage between search engine databases, finding biases between engines, and a much larger result. These also may display results in order of relevance, but you can change the settings to allow order by engine, if you so choose.
While incredibly important to your research, running a series of searches can be boring, even tiring. Luckily, academics and librarians have prepared databases of quality websites for perusal. Perhaps the answer to your question may be found here!
The Internet's potential for assistance in research is limitless, but it is important to remember that anyone can put up a web page, and there is no 'quality control' or editor for what you might find. This means that you must be the quality control inspector of your own results. It is important to always be ready to evaluate a website's reliability, especially if you are looking to use them in your research.
Some things you might consider when searching online include:
For more information and other great tips check out these checklists and other resources that will help you ask the right questions.