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Search Tools

The easiest way to locate Web pages and sites is by using what are known as Internet search tools. Search tools include search engines, subject directories, and meta-search engines.  The lines distinguishing between the search tools are sometimes hazy: some search engines have directory features and some subject directories have search engine functions.

What are Search Engines?

Search engines use computer programs that search the Internet and collect and index Web pages.  Use a search engine when you want to:

Search for information on a narrow or obscure topic
Search for a topic that involves a combination of multiple concepts
Locate a specific site
Search the full text of millions of pages
Retrieve a large number of results
Find particular types of files

What are Subject Directories?

Subject directories present collections of links to Web resources that have been submitted by individuals and organized into subject categories.  Use a subject directory when you want to:

Research a broad topic
View a list of sites selected by humans and not computer programs
Retrieve a list of relevant sites rather than individual Web pages
Retrieve a limited number of results

What are Meta-Search Engines?

Meta-search engines search the indexes of a number of search engines simultaneously and retrieve the results.  They are best used when you are:

In a hurry and want a quick overview on a subject
Conducting a very simple search
Searching for a very obscure topic and haven't had much luck using search engines or subject directories