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December 11th, 2000
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Search Engines - Google

It's been said that "... trying to get information off of the Internet is like trying to get a drink from a firehose." With the millions, soon to be billions, of web pages available on the Internet, locating information that meets your research needs can be difficult. Choosing the right search engine and using it effectively can help reduce that blast of information down to a manageable stream.

What's a Google?

One of the most impressive search engines available today is Google (http://www.google.com). What makes Google so special is its ability to find highly relevant results. Unlike most other search engines, Google ranks results based on the number and importance of other pages that link to them. In theory, the best sites are linked to more often than those of lesser quality.

For example, say you're looking for the Internal Revenue Service web site. You go to Google and enter the search "IRS." Because more web authors have linked to the official IRS site rather than a site like John Doe's "I Hate the IRS" site, Google's popularity ranking automatically lists the official site first. This type of ranking can save the searcher a great deal of time in looking for quality sites.

Other Benefits of Google

Simplicity - Unlike most other search engines, Google has a very clean look. Its use of white space and lack of ads presents a refreshingly simple page that doesn't confuse or overwhelm the searcher.

Speed - Because Google does not clutter its screens with ads or images, search results tend to load very quickly.

Snippets - Another nice feature of Google is the method in which it displays search results. Each result shows an excerpt (or "snippet") of the text that matches your query with your search terms appearing in boldface.

Search Tips

And - By default, Google only returns those pages that include all of your search terms. There is no need to include "and" between terms.

Or - Google does support the "or" operator. To tell Google to look for pages containing either word A or word B, use a capitalized "OR" between terms.

Phrases - With Google, you can search for phrases by adding quotation marks. Words enclosed in quotes will appear together in all returned documents.

Advanced Search - For more search options go to Google's Advanced Search page at http://www.google.com/advanced_search.

Specialized Google Search Engines

UW Madison - Google has set up a special search engine which only looks for pages within the UW Madison domain. You can find it at http://www.google.com/wisc.

Uncle Sam - This is Google's search engine for government and military sites. You can find it at http://www.google.com/unclesam.

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Written by: Bonnie Shucha
Reference & Electronic Services Librarian
bjshucha@facstaff.wisc.edu

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