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Internet Search Tips

Internet Search Tips

The Internet contains a vast amount of information of all types, and can be a powerful tool for your research. The Internet contains so much information that finding what you are looking for can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you search the web more effectively. These tips are general and will work with most search engines.

Internet Searching Tips

  • Be as specific as you can when searching. Use descriptive, specific words for your search terms rather than general categories. For example, search for: Vancouver 2010 Olympics, rather than Olympics.
  • Pay attention to word order when searching and put your most important search terms first. Change your search terms (try synonyms) if the first 20-30 search results are not relevant.
  • Use double quotation marks (“ “) to search phrases. This will limit your search results to only those web pages that contain the exact phrase you've specified. Without the quotation marks, your results will include any page that contains the words you've used, regardless of what order those words are in.
  • Use a specialty search engine or provider for some searching. For example, use Google Images to look for pictures.
  • Use the Boolean operator OR when you are looking for more than one related search term. This will limit your search results to those web pages that that contain at least one of the search terms that you are looking for. Search engines usually require that you capitalize the OR in your search. Enclose OR search statements in parentheses when you are combining Boolean operators.
  • Know the default search settings you favourite search engine uses. Most search engines, for example, default to AND searches automatically so you don’t need to type AND into the search engine to get that result.
  • Evaluate the sites you find. Once you master these quick tips for searching the Internet, you should be able to find the information you need a lot faster. The next step is to decide whether or not the websites you find are good, reliable sources of information for your project. ...see tips on evaluating Web sites
  • Use Suggested Sites lists created by professionals. Use websites that have already been evaluated for you. Check out our Sites by Subject.

For further information on how to find good websites using search engines and subject directories, consult the YALSA publication: Find Good Websites Fast.

Evaluating Websites

Although the Internet offers access to a lot of information you might find useful in your research, the quality of information on the web is always in question. Because anyone can post information on the Internet, you must evaluate the content of a website very carefully before deciding whether or not to use it.

So, how do you know if you have a good website for your project? Here are some criteria that you can use to evaluate a website:

  • Authority: Who wrote the information? Is the author of the website a professional or expert on the subject?
  • Accuracy: Are the facts documented? Does the website list facts not opinions?
  • Source: Was the site created by a reliable source, such as a government agency, University or non-profit organization?
  • Objectivity: What is the purpose of the site? What is the author's point of view?
  • Currency: When was the site last updated? Are the links used active and the information up-to-date?
  • Coverage: Does this site address the subject you are researching? Is the information substantial?
  • Value: Is the site well organized and easy to use? Does the site offer anything unique, or insightful? Is the site free of careless errors, misspelled words, and poor grammar?

Online Databases vs. the Internet

The library has a wide selection of databases for you to use when you need reliable, accurate information for a class assignment or research project. The Library’s databases contain thousands of articles from magazine, journal and newspapers covering a wide variety of subject areas. Many databases contain the entire article in full-text from sources that we do not receive in print format.

The Library’s databases use the web as a delivery system but they are not considered the “Internet” by your teacher. Most of the resources found in these databases, including articles from current academic (peer-reviewed) journals, are not available on the Internet.

How Databases are different from the Internet





Articles are written by publishers, experts and professionals

Sites may be posted by anyone regardless of expertise


Contain published works from academic journals that are checked for accuracy and reliability

Sites content is not necessarily checked by an expert


Are updated frequently and provide date of publication

Sites may not indicate when a page is updated

Learn more about our Online Databases