spacer Follow Our Search Engine Tutorial:
It's a Jungle
The First Search
The Road Narrows
Specificity Counts
Approaching the Bull's-Eye
A Few Notes...
- It's a Jungle

Yes, it's a jungle out there on the Internet with millions of destinations, from Web sites built by everyone from media giants to third graders, to databases, special interest newsgroups, and Listservs. The Internet is still young, and methods for navigating through it are still evolving. Remember that it took centuries to develop the Dewey decimal system that makes modern libraries accessible.

The bad news about searching the Internet is that there's nothing close to an organized card catalog; instead, there are many "search engines." The good news is that search engine sites are in hot competition with one another and are constantly developing better searching methods to attract more users.

What's a Search Engine?

The phrase "search engine" is used loosely to include directories like Yahoo!, which is a huge database with short descriptions of sites organized in categories and updated by humans, as well as real search engines like AltaVista, Excite, and HotBot. "Real" search engines employ automated software spiders that "crawl" the Web, searching out new sites which are then indexed in the search engine's database. How big are these indexes? Really big. As of February 2000, Excite inlcuded 214 million URLs and Alta Vista inlcuded 250 million.

How do you find search engines? The first place you'll encounter them is on the homepage of your Web browser, whether it's the AOL Web browser, Netscape, Microsoft Explorer, or another. For an overview of popular engines, go to The Spider's Apprentice ( or

The best way to choose a search engine is to test-drive a few and find one or more that consistently yields the most relevant information. Pick a topic that you know well, then run the same search on several engines. Because you're aware of the nuances of the subject, you'll quickly be able to evaluate how effective each one is at ferreting out very specific information.

Getting Started

This tutorial will take you through a sample search. For the purposes of the tutorial, we will provide the search terms and the search strategies. We will be using the search engine HotBot. While every search engine has unique features, the search strategies we'll discuss in the tutorial are similar from one search engine to another.

1. In a moment, you'll launch a second browser window. To make sufficient room on your monitor, resize this window (your wNetSchool tutorial browser window) to be as small as possible, but large enough to read so you can follow along. Alternatively, you may want to print these pages out.

2. Launch the HotBot browser window by clicking on HotBot. HotBot can be found at

3. Resize the HotBot browser window so it fits along side the wNetSchool tutorial browser window. (Hint: The far-right side of HotBot can be off the screen as it is mostly advertisements.)

4. Locate the empty white field to the right of the word Search Smarter. This is our starting point; it is where you will enter search terms for topics you are investigating.
image   Continue the tutorial: The First Search.   Continue the Tutorial

Internet Primer
Thirteen Ed Online