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How to Search the Web

Last updated: August 4, 2023

findingDulcinea’s Guide teaches you how to find anything you are looking for on the Web, and will direct you to more Web sites to help you in any search. It will make you a smarter searcher, whatever you are looking for. For foreign-language versions of this guide, see the links under “More Guides…” on the right.

How to Search the Web

The Internet: Defined and Explained

Understanding the technological underpinnings of the Internet and the World Wide Web will enhance your online experience. If you know how the Web works, you can use it to your advantage. For example, understanding the process a search engine goes through to retrieve your results will help you search more effectively. Use the following resources to gain an understanding of the Web as you begin to delve into it for your own research.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • The Internet itself is a worldwide network of interconnected computers that allows users to access and transfer information remotely. The information viewed on the Net is actually not on the Net at all, but rather on other computers, and viewed via the Net. A useful analogy would be to think of the Internet as a phone network: Just as a telephone provides people with the ability to contact distant locations and exchange information verbally, the Internet allows users to contact faraway locations and exchange information electronically.
  • The physical composition of the Internet is the system of wires, fiber-optic cables, routers, and circuits that make this connection possible. Many people view the Internet as an abstract body of information floating around in “cyberspace.” This is not the case at all. The Internet is a worldwide network of computer networks, and the information accessed resides on the connected computers themselves.
  • The most popular service accessed through the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW). The Web and the Net are often considered to be synonymous but actually represent two different things. Whereas the Internet is the means for accessing information, the Web is composed of the visual display of the information being accessed. Web pages are collections of files and documents stored on computers around the world, formatted in a programming language called HTML (hypertext markup language). This permits users to move between them by clicking on highlighted areas, called hyperlinks, or links for short. The Web is navigated using a technology called hypertext. Hypertext is a name for documents containing embedded pathways that, when clicked, direct users to other documents. These “links” can come in the form of words, phrases, icons, or graphics, and create interconnectedness between files and documents, giving character to the image of the World Wide Web, as a “web.”
  • A Web Browser is a computer program that allows users to access the Internet and view information on the Web. They accomplish this by interpreting HTML files, and displaying them as “pages” on a user’s computer. Browsers are designed to facilitate an ease of navigation through the Web’s pages, by taking advantage of its many benefits afforded by hypertext. Popular browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Netscape. Browsers with the proper “plug-ins” (software upgrades that permit users to open specific file types) allow users to: view documents, watch videos, listen to audio files, chat with other users, play games, and watch animations. Glossaries, such as Webopedia, and UC Berkeley are good reference tools when you encounter unfamiliar terms and concepts related to the Web or Internet in your research.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For an overview of the Internet …

HowStuffWorks has an excellent article on the basic underlying structure of the Internet. This detailed, multi-part article walks readers through an explanation of what the Internet is and how it works. The text is supplemented by useful diagrams that really help to illustrate the concepts. View the HowStuffWorks “Internet Channel” for a list of articles covering other Internet and Web technology concepts.

For Web technology guides and glossaries …

The University of California , Berkeley Library has a beginner’s guide to the Internet that includes a “Glossary of Internet & Web Jargon.” Find definitions of lingo such as “cookie,” “download,” “HTML,” and “Java.”

Webopedia is a dictionary of computer and Internet terminology. Enter terms into the search field to receive definitions of unfamiliar terms. Webopedia also has articles, like this one that discusses how search engines work with a comparison of the available options, as of Fall 2007.

For history …

The Computer History Museum has a decade-by-decade timeline of important events in the history of the Internet. Beginning in 1962 with computer experiments at MIT, this history takes us through ARPANET, Tim Berners-Lee, and the creation of the World Wide Web. Despite only reaching the year 1992, this chronology hits all the important events, and is an interesting read for those curious to about how the Net evolved into its current incarnation. is the Web site of Marcus Kazmierczak, a software engineer who is currently VP of Engineering at Maya’s Mom, a social network for parents. On his Web site, Marcus presents a brief history of the Net separated into seven distinct periods, which helps readers understand the different phases of its evolution.

Web Site Credibility

Finding information on the Web is like being a police detective: your information is only as good as your sources. Some Web sites will turn out to be legitimate and credible, while others will have ulterior motives. Your whole case can fall apart if you don’t evaluate your sources, so you need to interrogate and assess the integrity of each one.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • If you are using the information for a lighthearted e-mail, the source isn’t that important. If you’re conducting research for a professional report, or investing your child’s college fund, for example, you had better be sure your information is legitimate. Checking sources may sound arduous, but there are a few crucial questions that can aid you in your hunt for information.
  • Who is the author(s)? What are their credentials? Look at the domain (the last part of the Web address, for example: .com, .org, or .edu). This will generally tell you what kind of a site you are using: .ac and .edu sites are regulated educational sites; .com and .biz sites are for commercial purposes; and .gov sites are U.S. government sites. Other endings to Web addresses can indicate the country of origin of the site. Some domains are sponsored and therefore heavily regulated (.jobs, .museum, and .travel are a few examples), while others are not sponsored. For an additional explanation of this system regarding top-level domains (TLDs), read this page from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
  • Who is making the information available? How is the site being funded? Are they trying to sell you something? Does the site appear to have any social or political biases? The “About Us” section of a site is a good place to start but it shouldn’t be the end of your research. One way to look for additional company or author information is to try the name in a search engine. For an author, try searching the name along with key subject words to check for any additional work or credentials.
  • When was the information first published? Has it been updated recently? Many Web pages indicate when they were created and last revised. Check the bottom of the page for a copyright date or look for a date near the byline of an article. Without a date, the timeliness of the information is difficult to evaluate.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For a general overview of Web site credibility …

Internet Detective was created as part of the Intute: Virtual Training Suite and the LearnHigher project, both of the UK, with the intent of teaching Internet research skills. Learn how to evaluate a site’s credibility by heading directly to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”  This page covers hoaxes, spoofs, scams, and some common ways to spot them, along with a few real-world examples. You’ll also find short quizzes at the end of each section to see if you’ve retained the information.

To find the creator of a site … shows you who has registered a Web site, information that is helpful in determining objectivity.

To find historical site information …

Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization and a member of the American Library Association. This site is dedicated to building a permanent Internet library. By keeping comprehensive records of the Internet since 1996, the Internet Archive is able to provide free access to nearly two petabytes of digital data, which is more text than you’ll find in the Library of Congress. You can even view sites, watch videos, listen to audio files, and read books that are no longer online using the “Wayback Machine.” 

For site popularity information …

Alexa allows you to search a Web address to find the other sites that link to it (so you can see if other credible people think it’s worthwhile). It also tells you how many people access the site on a daily basis, and in the “Related Links” area, it lists the other sites that visitors access.

For information about a site’s parent company …

Hoover ’s lets you search its content by company, industry, or executive, so you can read company bios, see how it’s doing on the stock exchange, and get contact information, without a subscription. Full Hoover’s reports go for about $99.00.

AboutUs offers descriptions of various Web sites, relying on its users to flesh out its content. Although this guarantees the availability of helpful information for many popular sites (for an example, see this entry on the Web portal Yahoo), entries without user input tend to simply repeat the “About Us” section from the site in question, which happens frequently.

Who knew?

Snopes is a good reference tool for any kind of urban legend or hoax. You’ll find Internet and computer hoaxes here, in addition to seeing whether any of those urban legends you heard as a kid were actually true. Search by keyword in the search field or browse the archives, arranged in categories like “Crime,” “Embarrass,” and “Quotes.”

How Search Engines Work

Searching is the most popular way to find information on the Web, and search engines, which are online software programs designed to help users locate relevant Web sites, are some of the most highly trafficked sites out there. They have the capability to search the Internet faster and with more precision than any human could. But with this capability comes a flood of information, only a portion of which will be useful to you. Understanding how search engines work will help you get the results you want and sort through the irrelevant, misleading results you’ll undoubtedly encounter.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • How search engines work:
  • When you enter a keyword (that is, a significant term or phrase related to the Web site you hope to find) into a search engine, you are not searching the entirety of the Web. Rather, you are searching the list of Web sites that the search engine has indexed (which can be in the billions). If the search engine hasn’t added a Web site to its index, it cannot include it in the search results.
  • Search engines sift through text on Web pages using computer programs called spiders. “Spiders” crawling on the “Web”; get it?
  • Spiders are very fast but they can travel only through the hyperlinks that connect Web sites. If a page isn’t linked to any other pages, spiders can’t find it. The part of the World Wide Web that is not linked is called the “invisible Web” or the “deep Web.” It may contain information highly relevant to your search. To find resources on the invisible Web, see the “What is the invisible Web, and how do I find it?” and “How do I find a Web directory?” sections of this guide.
  • Search engines don’t know why you want information—they simply find information according to the words you’ve entered. These results are not recommendations; search engines don’t rank their results by the content of each site. They use mathematical equations (or algorithms) to rank them, and the formula may have little to do with a site’s legitimacy or value to you.
  • Companies have gotten wise to the way that search engines work. This has created an environment where Web pages are created and customized with the goal of appearing near the top of a search engine’s results list regardless of their credibility or usefulness. This practice is called “search engine optimization,” and it’s one reason that not all of your search results will be relevant or trustworthy.
  • The “Help,” “About,” or “Preferences” sections of a search engine site often have helpful tips for using that particular search engine to your advantage. For example, if you’re looking for a definition, Google tells you to add “define:” to the beginning of your keyword. Thus, a search for “define: search engine” in Google will give you a list of definitions for “search engine” from around the Web. Similar tricks are innumerable, and all search engines have them. Google has a complete list of “search operators.”
  • There is more than one kind of search engine: general search engines, also called “horizontal” search engines, search for all types of information, “vertical” search engines search only within certain topics, “meta” search engines search other search engines. Using the kind that does exactly what you need will improve your search results.
  • If you have trouble finding the information you want, ask yourself:
  • Is my keyword too general? Too specific?
  • Are there useful synonyms?
  • Could related topics be more effective?
  • Do you get so many results that you can’t find the sites that answer your question? Here’s how to reduce the number of results:
  • Use more than one word in your search. For example, type “chicken salad sandwich” instead of just sandwich.
  • Try to be more specific in your terms. If you want a panini, type panini instead of sandwich.
  • Use and instead of simply typing two words (for example, soup AND sandwich), and your results will include only sites that contain both terms.
  • Use not to exclude certain terms from your results: sandwich NOT bologna.
  • Want more search results?
  • Try using fewer words when you search. Typing Reuben sandwich instead of classic Reuben sandwich will yield more results.
  • By using the term or and trying a few related words at once (sandwich OR gyro OR panini), you can increase your results exponentially.

Dulcinea’s Picks

To learn how search engines work …

HowStuffWorks offers an authoritative, accessible explanation for how search engines work that uses lots of simple graphics to aid the visual learner.

For searching tips …

The University of California , Berkeley Library offers “Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial” that details both the right questions to ask and the reasons to ask them. The tutorial can help you evaluate Web pages quickly and efficiently.

The American Library Association provides information especially pertinent to children and their parents. You’ll find resources to help keep kids stay safe online, kid-safe Web sites and research tools, and tips for surfing the Internet with your kids. Especially helpful is the “Designed-for-Young People Search Engines” link.

Choosing a Search Engine

This is a question most people don’t ask, because established search routines are hard to escape. Statistics show that Google claims the largest percentage of the Web-searching user base, at nearly 50 percent. But with hundreds of alternatives, what has compelled each of these users to choose a particular search engine or site? Was it a rigorous and balanced testing of the alternatives, or something more akin to happenstance? While Google offers a good product, it isn’t the only one out there, and every user could benefit by expanding beyond this ferocious online giant. In reality, there are many alternatives, each with its own set of merits, that are worth considering when your go-to engine fails you.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • Search engines allow users to do more than find keywords on Web sites. A majority of search engines have features that allow users to search specifically for images, videos, news, blogs, and much more. Links to these categories are generally found above the search bar, and need only to be clicked to activate the specialty search features.
  • Each search engine’s index of sites is unique; each has a different formula for spidering through them. This means there can be significant variation in the results that different engines will generate for the same search terms. For an example of just how different it can be, visit the site Zuula. Zuula allows you to search across multiple platforms by putting them all in one location. After entering your search term, you’ll be given a typical-looking results page. What makes it unique is that by clicking the tabs listed across the top of the page, you’ll be given the results for your search term on each of the search engines listed. Google, Yahoo, MSN, Gigablast, Exalead, Alexa, Accoona, and Mojeek are all in one place.
  • Many search engines draw on the technologies of a select few. For instance HotBot  provides a way to toggle between results on, MSN, and the visual search engine lyGo.comAOL Search relies upon Google, and according to Search Engine Watch, the results produced are very similar.
  • These Picks represent a selection of the best search engines, and are certainly as much as most Web users would need. But as this continually updated list on Wikipedia demonstrates, search engines come in all varieties, and their number is vast.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For an overview …

Internet Tutorials , maintained by Laura Cohen, a Web Support librarian at the State University of New York at Albany, has a brief yet thorough explanation of the Internet and its components. Here Cohen lists and explains over 70 search engines, distinguishing between individual search engines, meta search engines, and search engine collections. If you know what you’re looking for but not sure where to start, use the “How to Choose a Search Engine or Directory” link for recommendations.

For general search engines (also known as horizontal search engines) …

Google is the heavy hitter in the industry. It offers an extremely useful tool. In addition to general Web searches, it’s easy to search for images, news, videos, and map searches by clicking on the appropriate category above the search box.

Yahoo transitioned from its roots as a directory to offering search capabilities in competition with Google. Vertical searching of images, video, shopping, jobs, and audio is offered. The homepage is about as stark as any on the Web. , formerly AskJeeves, was initially conceived and marketed as a search engine that interpreted plain-language questions, so you could literally ask the search engine to find you something. A recent makeover has left with a very pleasing, minimal design and a Web 2.0 aesthetic. A range of vertical search options puts at the forefront of the search market.

Live Search is Microsoft’s search service. If you’re into online map services, Live Search Maps is a must. The aerial views and simple navigation that made Google Earth such a novelty are present here, with enhanced clarity in urban centers and stunning 3-D views.

For meta-search engines (search engines that compile results from other search engines) …

Ixquick is the most comprehensive engine there is; it searches and compiles results from 12 of the most popular search engines on the Web. In addition to an elegantly simple design, it searches for pictures, finds phone numbers from around the world using an international directory, and compares prices for products using a global price search.

Exalead is a sleekly designed search engine that offers a number of useful features, such as thumbnail images of search results, the option to cluster results by concept, and the ability to customize the organization of your results by variables such as file type, geography, or modification date.

Dogpile assembles results from Google, Yahoo, MSN, and The real attraction of this search tool lies in its wide array of searchable media including images, audio, video, news, both yellow and white page directories, and a price-comparison feature. The audio search is particularly useful for finding mp3, midi, and .wav versions of songs and other audio clips.

For vertical search engines (those that only search specific topics) …

Search Engine Watch provides a list of topic-specific search engines as well as the latest news in the search engine industry.

The Online Education Database published an article of the “Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines” that features some of the new wave of search engines. Search engines of note include one for searching domain name information, multimedia search engines, and search engines that display results in graphically interesting ways.

Who knew? is a great tool for online shopping. This visual search engine allows you to use characteristics such as shape, color, or material to explore product photographs and find exactly what you want.

The Invisible Web

Many of the Web’s most extensive sites work like libraries. These database sites keep all of their information tucked away in the stacks, and if you want something, you have to ask for it. Although search engines may visit these libraries, they are rarely able to make it past the lobby, and they positively refuse to ask the librarian for help. This causes them (and you) to miss out on the massive amount of information stocked in the back rooms. This hidden material is referred to as part of the “deep” or “invisible” Web.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • A brief explanation of the invisible Web:
  • Information in databases can be accessed only by a direct search (a search from within the site itself), which prevents search engines from finding it.
  • White pages, electronic books, online journals, image files, newspaper archives, dictionary definitions, and patents are examples of the file types found in databases.Frequently updated or changing information, like ticket prices and job listings, are also part of the deep Web.
  • Although its exact size is unknown, the deep Web is believed to be 400–550 times larger than the surface Web (the area accessible to search engines).
  • One trick for finding databases with standard search engines is as simple as adding the term “database” to your search query. Instead of “Buddhism,” try “Buddhism database.” By doing this, you are using the search engine to find a gateway to more information, rather than the information itself.
  • Online databases occasionally require users to pay for access to their content. Schools and libraries subscribe to various database services, so consult your librarian for a list of resources that they may make available to you. Otherwise, consider your research goals to determine whether paying is worthwhile.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For more information on the deep Web, including FAQs and links …

The Online Education Database has “The Ultimate Guide to the Invisible Web.” This guide tells you what the invisible Web is, why it exists, how to make a site “visible,” and how to search for sites on the invisible Web. The guide also provides a useful list of invisible Web search tools, organized by category.

CloserLook , a company that specializes in building deep Web search engines for businesses, has an informative “Frequently Asked Questions” section that deals with topics related to the invisible Web. It also makes clear the advantages of utilizing this wealth of information.

BrightPlanet is full of insightful explanations and useful facts about the deep Web. This site relates the full potential of the deep Web and its impact on electronic research. Did you know that “ninety-five percent of the deep Web is publicly accessible information—not subject to fees or subscriptions”? If only you could find it.

To search the deep Web …

CompletePlanet is the premier free, deep Web search tool. Find information that cannot be accessed by surface Web search engines in this directory of more than 70,000 specialized search tools and databases.

Turbo10 not only grants you access to the deep Web, it also allows you to add databases and search engines to its already voluminous index of searched sites.

Web Directories

Web directories are lists of hand-selected sites compiled by Web users and organized into categorical tree structures to help users locate sites with content that is relevant to their research. Some directories are large and authoritative; others are small and amateur. Web directories are very useful when you want to find sites related to a specific category.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • Web directories are browsable collections of links, assembled by humans and classified by subject.
  • Web directories generally fall into two categories:
  • scholarly (assembled, edited, and annotated by experts and professionals)
  • commercial (rely on site traffic and advertising to operate)
  • To find subject directories simply add the term “directory” to your search query. This will lead you to a page of preselected sources on the topic you are searching.
  • Each directory has a different focus, and you’ll need one that suits your individual needs. For instance, if you want to find sites on video game cheat codes, a commercial directory like the Open Directory Project or dmoz would be a good start. If you want access to sociology journals, try a scholarly directory like the Librarians’ Internet Index.
  • Because directories only contain the title, URL, and sometimes a brief description of the sites listed, and not a site’s full text, your searches within a directory will be most successful if you try to more general than specific. Keep this in mind when forming your search terms: it may be best to begin with a broad topic to reduce the chances of eliminating valuable sites. For example, if you are looking for information on Picasso, start by searching for “modern art,” then explore the sites listed.
  • Browse a directory only if it lacks a search function. If you’re browsing, you’ll need to guess which subject heading your topic would fall under at each layer. If at any point you follow an incorrect topic, you’ll miss the link for which you are looking.
  • To ensure quality, ask yourself some questions: How are the links selected, and by what criteria are they judged? Are the links accompanied by descriptions? Are these descriptions written by directory staff or by Web site creators themselves? For answers to these questions, visit the “How do I know if I can trust a Web site?” section of this guide.

Dulcinea’s Picks

findingDulcinea is a new take on Web directories. We’re a directory, insofar as our guides are organized in a tree structure and are composed of sites that our researchers deem to be the most useful the Web has to offer. We diverge from conventional directories by offering tips and insight into how you can conduct your own research, so you are not limited to using the sites we present. You’ll also find a valuable supplement to our guides: a customized search engine that indexes only findingDulcinea-approved sites.

Librarians’ Internet Index is a good spot to check for research in any discipline. LII is a publicly funded site full of interesting bits of information and Web sites. This directory of over 20,000 handpicked, screened, and annotated Web sites was assembled by a group of California librarians. is a directory of Web 2.0 sites (the recent wave of community-driven sites emphasizing interaction and collaboration between their users). allows you to filter your results by tags (descriptive words), and sort them alphabetically or by date. This is a great place to find some of the newest in Web 2.0 applications.

Intute , although aimed at users in the United Kingdom, provides concise annotations with information on the publisher, the date published, and the content to be found on each Web site in a search result. Intute was developed from the former Resource Discovery Network and launched in July 2006.

The Internet Scout Project is part of the University of Wisconsin’s College of Letters and Sciences. This site provides access to first-rate research materials. With a directory containing more than 23,000 carefully selected and annotated sites compiled over nine years, it is a valuable resource tool.

The WWW Virtual Library is the oldest directory on the Web. Founded by Tim Berners-Lee (the creator of HTML), it’s currently maintained and coordinated by “expert” volunteers. The number of topics included is staggering and quite specific.

The Educator’s Reference Desk is a directory of everything concerning education. From the Information Institute of Syracuse, this site provides parents and educators with plenty of useful educational information and resources.

Who knew? calls itself “the Internet’s Largest Ice Cream Business Directory” but is also a “one-stop source for everything you need to start and run a successful ice cream business.” Web directories come in many flavors, so before you assume your topic is too specialized to warrant a directory, remember the existence of this site.

Social Bookmarking Tools

One of the recent trends in Web research is “social bookmarking.” Social bookmarking employs a practice called “tagging” that provides an alternative to search engines by incorporating human selection into the search process. Most search engines work by indexing Web sites through an automated process, and then use complex formulas to search their indexes to find relevant Web sites. With social bookmarking, a community of users compiles the index by collectively submitting (or bookmarking) their favorite sites, and then tags them (assigns each site a set of keywords) so that they’ll turn up when you search. With social bookmarking, you’ll learn how popular a Web sites is and get only results you know other users find useful or interesting.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • This 2006 article on Read/WriteWeb, a prominent Web technology blog, compares and contrasts the top players in social bookmarking. There’s a great chart that compares each site’s functionality and details their pros and cons.
  • If you’re still scratching your head about what social bookmarking is, watch this YouTube video. The video attempts to put social bookmarking in plain terms using Delicious as an example, though keep in mind that there are many alternatives.
  • Social bookmarking sites occasionally have their own goofy terms for similar features or functions. For example, the act of voting/bookmarking a site on Digg is called “digging,” whereas on Furl the same process is called “Furling.” Newsvine calls its recent headlines “seeds,” contrasted with the standard “bookmarks” of Diigo and Delicious.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For social bookmarking …

Delicious is widely regarded as the premier destination for social bookmarking. When you search for a keyword, you’ll get a list of Web sites that match the term, and you’ll be able to determine each site’s popularity by looking at how many times it was bookmarked (denoted by a number that appears after the site description, in red on the results page and in blue on the homepage.)

reddit ‘s aim is to determine “what’s new and popular online,” so it’s a good place to keep up on developments in the online world (often a difficult thing to do). The links on the homepage of reddit point to a selection of odd and interesting sites, stories, photos, and more.

StumbleUpon is a bookmarking site that was purchased by online giant eBay in March 2007. Use the “Websites” tab to see the sites currently being tagged, and search through the bookmarks of over three million users. The “Videos” tab directs you to thumbnails of popular videos.

Diigo doesn’t have the user base that makes Delicious such a quality tool but there are more than enough bookmarks on this site to warrant attention in your research. Like other social bookmarking sites, Diigo is minimal in its design, very functional, and easy to navigate.

For social tagging news …

Digg is social bookmarking for news. At Digg you’ll find a community of dedicated users who submit and rate (or digg) news stories, videos, photos, and Web sites. This voting process is designed to filter out uninteresting stories and bring only the best to the forefront.

Newsvine is a community-driven news and opinion site where stories are submitted and voted on by users to determine their rank and place on the site. Newsvine’s layout approximates that of a newspaper; the content reflects a broad, balanced selection of stories, contrasted with the gamer/tech focus of Digg’s homepage.

Scholarly Resources Online

Most standard sources of information aren’t adequate for academic purposes; what you need is the primary information and in-depth research found only in scholarly resources. Scholarly resources aren’t for learning the basics of a subject; they focus on technical information and professional research studies. These sources are often peer-reviewed and are a reliable way to get information for your research or writing.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • Scholarly resources are not meant to be easy to read or understand. They are often first-hand sources, or come from people and organizations that deal specifically with your topic of interest.
  • Start by checking out library Web sites. They can be helpful in beginning your search, as they often have directories and lists of useful online tools and resources. An example is the New York Public Library, which has a comprehensive directory of librarian-selected and annotated links to sites with information on a variety of topics.  Libweb can help you find a library Web site by the library’s subject or location.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For an article …

INFOMINE , compiled by various libraries, is a good resource for university-level research. It has links to databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, articles, researcher directories, and more.

Academic Info maintains more than 25,000 academic sources, including annotated subject directories and digital collections from academic groups, libraries, and museums. There are also a lot of ads on this site; try not to be distracted from the real content. This site was created by a former law librarian.

Directory of Open Access Journals provides free access to full-text online journals. Allowing you to search by title or by subject, this site is great even if you simply want to explore a topic.

Live Search Academic employs a familiar search strategy by searching academic articles using keywords (similar to many search engines), and returns results with site listings and small abstracts (also similar to many search engines). A unique feature of Live Search Academic is the ability to view abstracts by moving your mouse over the results.

For a book …

WorldCat is a bibliographic database. It allows users to locate books in catalogs of over 50,000 libraries around the world. With bibliographic information for more than 1 billion items, users can also read reviews and summaries.

Google Book Search allows users to discover new books, read reviews and excerpts, search within the text of a book, and provides links to online stores and actual libraries that carry the book.

For statistics …

The U.S. Census Bureau hosts the 2007 Statistical Abstract, a summary of statistics from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and other organizations. You’ll find stats on a variety of things such as income level or household pet ownership.

The CIA World Factbook invites you to select a country or location and then presents that country’s flag, places it on a map, and provides a thorough overview. Learn about the people, geography, economy, military, transportation, communications, and more.

For a way to share your finds …

Connotea lets you store and share your scholarly resources using keyword tags to organize them as you like. The tool is free and easy to use, making it a snap to access and share your references.

CiteULike shares your favorite scholarly resources and lets you look through the sources of other users. The Web site also offers news, discussion, and search groups.

For legal reference …

The Public Library of Law offers a free searchable database of case law, statutes, regulations, court rules, constitutions, and legal forms. Do a basic search of this free database and you’ll find resources from the paid database fastcase (also the site’s sponsor), advanced options allow you to search for resources from specific jurisdictions and date ranges.

How to Cite a Source

Almost all of the information you find on the Internet is copyrighted. All copyright and intellectual property laws also apply to the Internet, so become familiar with terms-of-use policies and citation methods. If you ever have a question about whether a particular content selection can be borrowed, find the Web site’s contact information (generally in the site’s “About Us” section) and ask.

If you’re writing a paper or news article, make sure you know how to cite electronic sources for your bibliography. “Citing” is the act of attributing borrowed ideas used in your own work to the authors or locations from which you took them.

Dulcinea’s Insight

  • Always assume something is copyrighted and as a general rule, ask permission before using it.

Dulcinea’s Picks

For general citation information …

The University of California , Berkeley Library’s guide on citation provides all the information you need on the different citation styles and citation management tools.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online offers the “Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide” for examples of how to cite different sources. Learn how to cite Web pages, Web log (blog) entries, forum discussions, or e-mail messages.

For help creating citations …

Son of Citation Machine helps you create citations for a bibliography in MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian style. Choose your citation format, then the type of publication (for example, Web page, book, or encyclopedia); this site then gives you a form with blanks for citation information and generates a properly formatted citation for you to copy and paste into your document. It’s useful if you are unsure what to put in quotes, how to order your information, or any other part of citing a source.

KnightCite is a project from the Hekman Library at Calvin College that helps you create a bibliography in APA, MLA, or Chicago style.

SourceAid allows you to create citations for CSE as well as Chicago, APA, and MLA styles.

Ottobib On OttoBib, you can enter the ISBN (international standard book number) of a book to create a full citation.

Who knew?

Citebite is useful if you’re creating a Web page and want to reference a bit of text from another site. Copy and paste the original quote and its URL (Web address) into Citebite. Citebite then creates a link for you to put in your own writing that directs your readers back to the quoted material and even highlights it.

Copyscape helps you bust someone who’s copying your Web content. Enter your URL into Copyscape and they search the Web for copies of your page.

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