This is the "Internet Searching" page of the "MA - IS Research Guide" guide.
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Last Updated: Oct 23, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Internet Searching

Internet Searching

The World Wide Web is an enormous network with an incredible amount of information on it. It is very easy to get lost when looking for quality information on the Internet, so it is essential to be prepared with a search strategy before searching the web, just as you would with any other information tool.

It is often necessary to revise your search strategy as you learn what and how much information is available on your topic. Be prepared to search several search engines when looking for material.

When to Search the World Wide Web

The web is not always the best place to start researching your topic. In order to determine whether this is the case or not, ask yourself some questions: What am I looking for? What is my goal at this point? Where else might I be able to find this information?

Generally speaking, it is recommened that you begin your search in a library catalogue or journal database, something that you know has reputable information. Sometimes as you research you will discover information gaps that the web may be able to fill.

Searching the World Wide Web

The most common way to locate information on the web is to use a search engine. A search engine uses a "spider" or "robot" that is constantly traveling from server to server all around the web. It scans URLs, page titles, metadata and sometimes, even all the words and images within pages and builds up an index.

It is important to remember that not all search engines are created equal. That is, the quality of the information found with a search engine, depends in large part on the quality of the indexing. Have you ever done a search on the Internet and wondered why your search retrieved the results it did? One of the reasons may be because of poor indexing. Another reason might be an ineffective search strategy. Below we have provided instructions for effective search strategies in Google.


You can search Google in a number of ways. By default, Google inserts an AND in between words that are entered, unless you put quotation marks around phrases. For example:

Inuit culture ecology

should retrieve the same results as:

Inuit and culture and ecology

If you wish you can use AND in between to combine terms, just as you would in a journal database or the keyword field of the Library catalogue.

Google also supports OR searching, but you must CAPITALIZE the OR in order to ensure that Google reads it appropriately. For example:

Good Search: Inuit OR Eskimo

Bad Search: Inuit or Eskimo

Google searches are case insensitive, meaning that a search for inuit OR eskimo will be just as effective as Inuit OR Eskimo.

Other Searching Tips:

  • It is a good idea to use descriptive words in your search strategies so as to retrieve the most relevant results
  • Use quotation marks around phrases so that Google searches for the words together
  • Use truncation symbols, just as you do in a journal database to retrieve variations on words
  • You can search within a specific website for information. For example:
    • "canadian heritage" site:  will retrieve information about Canadian heritage on the Government of Canada websites.

Because the quality of information found on the Internet varies so significantly, it is a good idea to evaluate carefully the information found. Tips for doing this can be found in our Internet Searching guide.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar allows you to search for scholarly information on the Internet. It is possible to set it up to search a subset of AU Library's subscription databases, but also indexes other scholarly content that is not found in journal databases. To learn how to use Google Scholar, view the tutorial.

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