The Web can be a useful place to find resources to support your studies. However, websites are not reviewed in any way so the quality of information will vary. More information on Evaluating information found on the web and via other sources is available.
Additionally, a lot of websites won't be aimed at an academic level, so whilst information on Wikipedia may be useful to provide you with an overview of a subject new to you, it should not be relied on as authoritative and research based evidence for your work.
Google is usually the most well-known search engine, but other ways of searching the web are also available.
Internet search engines
Search engines index sections of the Web, enabling you to find relevant information. Each search engine:
- Indexes different sections of the Web
- Uses its own technology to match your keywords with the most relevant websites in its index
- Uses its own criteria to determine the order in which results are displayed
Is 'Googling' the only option?
Google is a very popular search engine, but there are other search engines available:
Searching for specialist resources
Most of the major search engines will allow you to limit your search to particular resource types, e.g. images or videos.
To find information in other formats you can use various specialist search tools, such as:
Remember, material found on the internet is still bound by copyright laws. Re-using images, videos etc. will usually require permission from the originator, unless created under a creative commons licence permitting re-use. More information on copyright on the web can be found in Evaluating information.
Academic search engines
Academic search engines, such as Google Scholar, focus on searching the Web for scholarly information; e.g. peer-reviewed journal articles, theses, conference proceedings, books and professional organisations.
More about academic search engines
Academic search engines usually index material from particular publishers with whom they have an agreement, consequently:
- Their overall coverage is not as comprehensive as bibliographic databases
- Their coverage of some subject areas is better than others
One example of an academic search engine is Google Scholar:
- Google Scholar has links with a small number of publishers only, so your search will not be comprehensive
- From Google Scholar, you can access the full-text of articles that the University subscribes to; click on the FullText@NottinghamUni link
- Your Google Scholar results may include articles which the University does not subscribe to, either in print or electronically.
Bibliographic databases will find more comprehensive and good quality results than a search engine.
MetaSearch engines such as Yippy and Ixquick don't search the Web themselves, but send your search to other search engines (such as Google, Yahoo and Ask.com) then amalgamate the results in one place. Some MetaSearch engines also categorise results, making it easier for you to locate the most appropriate resources.
Advantages of MetaSearch engines
- Search multiple search engines at once
- Obtain a broader overview of available websites, as each search engine will find different results
- Easily compare results between search engines
In Ixquick you will notice that each result has a number of stars next to it - this indicates the number of search engines which found the website in their top ten results.
As with other search engines you should watch out for the sponsored links displayed at the beginning of the results list!