How to Search the Web

Choose a search engine or directory. For suggestions, see our list of "Search Engines and Web Guides."
Identify search terms. Use words pertinent to your topic, including any synonyms. Also consider any authors' names, geographic locations, or other information that may be commonly associated with your topic.
Utilize search features. This includes using Boolean operators and other advanced search features. For more information, see these resources and tutorials:

  • The Search Engine Features Chart compares the searching capabilites of seven major search engines, including basic information on how to do advanced searching.
  • The Search Engine Math Commands includes information on advanced searching "math" in a variety of search engines.
  • Pandia's "short and easy" Search Engine Tutorial offers step-by-step instructions on how and where to search for the best results.

Evaluate your results.

  • Look at refining your search to make it more specific (or narrow) or to include more results (by broadening your search terms). For more help, see Pandia's 17 Recommendations for Net Searching.
  • Consider the types of sources you see in the results. Ask yourself these questions to determine if they are reliable: Can you identify the author as well as when the page was last updated? Does it link to other reputable web pages? What type of site is it: is it from a commercial site (.com), educational instution (.edu), organization (.org), or government website (.gov)? Why are they publishing this information (what is their motive)?
  • Note: beware of paying for online information! What isn't free online is probably available through the Library at no cost to you.

Use Library resources, too. If you cannot find reliable, scholarly information on the Web, then it is probably time to turn to the Library. Check out our article databases and library catalogs for more searching options, or contact an UVA-Wise librarian for more information.