Search Engines

  What is a search engine?

    A search engine is a guide who directs you through the Internet.  Like phone numbers, it would be impossible to memorize every single URL address.  A search engine acts like a huge yellow pages which helps you locate web pages you are looking for.  Most search engines have software called "robots" or "crawlers" that read entire web sites and index entries for that specific search engine. Each search engine has robots with different techniques for doing there job, so that is why you will get different results with each search engine.  If you know the exact address of a web page, there would be no need for a search engine.  You would simply type the address in the URL space and hit return.  But if you don't, a search engine will help you find the web page you are looking for, or one like it.  For instance, if you wanted to visit the Clemson University home page, but didn't know the address, you could search for it by typing Clemson University in the subject field.  The official Clemson University home page will probably be one of the first addresses given, but other web pages about Clemson University will also be given.

How do you use a search engine?

    Almost every search engine asks for the subject you are looking for (Ask Jeeves is different).  You can type either a word, a phrase, or many words into the subject field.  It usually helps to leave out unneccessary words when deciding what to type in the subject field.  For example, you can leave out words that would be found in almost every web page, such as the, of, for, in, to, etc.   It will take a couple of seconds for the search engine to search for web sites that match your topic.  The sites that are given are called hits.  Search engines usually only list twenty sites at a time, starting with 1-20.  A number after this is usually displayed to show how many hits there were.  Sometimes, a brief description of the site is given after the name of the site and it's URL.  If you think the web site is something that would be beneficial to look at, click on the blue words.  If none of the sites are what you are looking for, you can either click on the next button for twenty more hits, or you can perform another search.  There are a couple of things you can change for the second search.  If you got too few hits, you might want to broaden your topic.  If you get too many hits, try narrowing your topic.  To broaden and narrow your topic, try adding or subtracting words from your topic.  You have to play around until you find a phrase that gives you the right number of hits.  You shouldn't have over a thousand hits, but you need a phrase that will actually give you something.  If you have over a thousand hits, your topic is probably too broad, and the majority of the web sites have nothing to do with what you are looking for.  If this continues to happen, you can click on a button such as advanced search.  This allows you to change the controls which may help you in finding the sites that you want.  If one search engine doesn't give you what you want, try another.  Remember, they are all different and you will probably get different results.  Almost anything you could possibly want to know exists on the web, you just need to know how to find it.

What are some search engines I could use?

The following are some of the best free search engines on the web and brief descriptions of them.  It is important to use a search engine that you are comfortable with.  You can click the blue words to visit the site.


Yahoo! is easy to follow and the results are usually very accurate because it searches by subject.  It usually only gives you websites that focus on your topic which is great if you are looking for a broad topic.  Sometimes, Yahoo! will leave out lots of useful web pages like a web page that may not be focused on that topic, but still contains lots of information.  Yahoo! does offer other things such as free email, online auctions, Fantasy Sports leagues, games, people searches, and other fun things.

Alta Vista

Alta Vista is huge, indexing millions of web pages and newsgroup messages;  it allows you to search for a single word or a phrase.  When using Alta Vista, you may get websites which arenít about your topic, but instead just mention the subject you are looking for briefly.


Lycos is good if you are trying to locate hard to find information.  You will probably come across some random pages that may have only one or two words about your topic.


Webcrawler searches for keywords in web pages.  It is a helpful search engine when you have already carefully limited your topic.

Ask Jeeves

Ask Jeeves is a friendly and straightforward way to navigate the Internet accurately.  It lets you ask a question the way you'd ask it in the real world.  While Ask Jeeves might not have the largest selection of web pages, if it canít help answer you question, it will direct you to a search engine that might.

Northern Light

Northern Light combines web results with premium information from 5,400 books, magazines, databases, and newswires not available from any other search engines.  Results are returned prioritized by best match and organized into folders the help narrow your search.

Netscape Search


Project Site, Honors Composition 102, Fall 1999

Project Site 2, Composition 102, Spring 2000

©1999-2000 Clemson University First Year Composition
Dr. Christine Boese, assistant professor




Tutorials | FAQ | Myths | Connect with Others
| Online 
Resources | Contact Infomation
Return to Home


This StreetRing site
is owned by Christine Boese.

Want details on joining StreetRing?
[Previous 5 Sites |Skip Previous |Previous |Next |Skip Next |Next 5 Sites |Random Site |List Sites]