How to Search the Web...
Whether you're doing a report for school or just trying to find the
answer to something you've always wondered about, chances are there's
something on the web with the information you need. Chances are also
good you are going to have a hard time finding it. There's so much
information available that you can spend hours looking and find nothing
but irrelevant drivel. Search engines are your most useful tool here,
but only if you know how to use them. Otherwise, you'll end up with
thousands or even millions of hits. They may be interesting, but they're
not what you're looking for and who has time to go through all of that
(and Actually Find What You Want)
How to Launch a Successful Search
The trick is to narrow your search so that the engine can zoom in on
exactly what you are looking for, weeding out pages that you don't want.
How you get the engine to do the work, rather than doing the work
yourself (by checking through each and every returned link) depends on
the search engine.
- With most search
engines, if you enter two words, say black holes, the
engine will search for documents that contain either one of
those words. Thus, you will get all documents containing black
and all documents containing holes, which is probably not
what you intended.
So, instead of entering black holes, try entering "black holes"
- The more specific you are,
the more likely you are to find exactly what you are looking for. If you are
trying to find out how we see black holes, but type only black holes
into Google, you get 940,000 hits. But if you type "How do we see black holes?" into
Google, you get 28 hits, the first of which is a page entitled "How do we
see Black Holes?". You might not always be this lucky, but most times the
results a multiple word search gives are pretty good. Don't forget, when
entering multiple words, use quotes!
- Many of the search engines
have pages set up where you can choose to do an advanced search. This
just means that you can specify how you want the engine to search for
your information. Often the options allowed will help to narrow down
your search. For example, a search with Yahoo's general engine for
diameter of Mercury's orbit yielded 281,400 pages, while an
advanced search for the exact phrase "diameter of Mercury's orbit"
yielded just one, which had the value for Mercury's orbital diameter in
Try more than one search engine - Different search
engines refer to different pages. Often they will give you different results
for identical searches. So if you don't find what you're looking for on one
engine, try a different one!
- Google advanced search (http://www.google.com/advanced_search)
- Yahoo precise search (http://search.yahoo.com/search/options)
- HotBot advanced search (http://www.hotbot.com/default.asp?
- Altavista advanced search (http://www.altavista.com/sites/search/adv)
Other Useful Links
Try searching our Imagine the Universe! site - online we have a search engine that is meant to search our site as well as the Ask A NASA
Scientist archives. Our site is pretty comprehensive and this may be able to
help you find what you are looking for!