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 An Internet Guide to Power Structure Research

Search Engines

 

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Tips for Using Search Engines 

When you are unable to find the information you need on any of the recommended web sites, it is always possible to do your own search using one of the popular search engines.  No two search engines index the web in exactly the same way, so it is important to try several before abandoning your search.  The main guidelines for conducting a successful search are: (1)  begin with a simple search and then progressively narrow your search by adding additional terms; (2) enter your rarest and most important search terms before more common words; (3) use phrases or proper names, enclosing them in quotes if necessary; (4) try alternative words or phrases that refer to the same topic; (5) use the plus (+) sign to indicate words that must appear in each page found; (6) click the Help or Search Tips or Advanced Search link to learn about the special features of each search engine.  Below are just a few of the many search engines available on the web.

  • Google.  The best choice to begin with. Very large database and sophisticated search engine.  Allows you limit search to particular domains and to view pages that are related or linked to a given page.  Does a better job than most of indexing the SEC pages. Allows you to search newsgroups as well as the web.

  • Yahoo.  A distant second among search engines.  For most of its life, the Yahoo Search has served merely as a user interface with the actual web crawling, data storage, and retrieval done by other engines like Inktomi or Google.  Yahoo recently contracted with Microsoft to use Bing to power its search capability..

  • Bing.  Microsoft's entry into the search engine market.  Similar to Google but sports a prettier interface and various features designed to appeal to the mass consumer market.

  • Ask.  Originally known as Ask Jeeves, this search engine offers the option of entering your searches in the form of questions.  Operates separate sites in a number of major European countries and languages.   

  • AltaVista.  One of the pioneers among search engines.  Has a large database and a robust set of search commands.  Also translates text into different languages.  Recently purchased by Yahoo.

  • Lycos.  Another pioneer among search engines, this site has now scaled back its search capabilities to focus more on web entertainment     

Using Meta-Search Engines

With meta-search engines you enter your search terms and the meta-engine processes the search through a number of different search engines simultaneously.  This can save you much time and effort, but the downside is that you are limited to only the simplest search commands that are handled by all search engines.  The meta-engine also returns only a limited number of hits from each search site, so you may miss some hits that are further down on the list. Below are a few of the popular meta-search engines.

  • MetaCrawler.  Blends the top search results from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask.  Advanced search and preference options give you some control over customizing your search.  One annoying feature is that it includes paid listings from commercial sites among the search results.  Owned and operated by InfoSpace.

  • DogPile.  Similar to MetaCrawler, but with a slightly different interface.  Owned and operated by InfoSpace.

  • Search.com.  A stripped down meta-search engine. Operated by CBS Interactive.

  • Mamma.  Another bare bones meta-search engine.

  • MegaSpider.  Says that it allows you to search 37 search engines at once, the largest number of any meta-engine but probably more than is necessary for most purposes.

Internet Archive

One of the frustrating problems of online content is that it often disappears within a few months or years.  For example, you may be interested in exploring the campaign website of a political candidate in the last election or in retrieving an earlier year's annual report of a major corporation from their website, only to find that the content you are seeking is no longer accessible.  Sometimes you can find an copy of what you want by using the Internet Archive.

  • Internet Archive.  You first need to know the URL for the website you are looking for.  For many organizations, this will be the same or similar to their current internet address.  Entering the URL into the search box of the "Way Back Machine" will generate a list of snapshots of the site you are interested in at different time points as far back as the mid-1990s.  Ordinarily you will only have access to the top one or two layers of the website.  Sometimes one snapshot will have more or less content than another, so if you don't find what you want on your first try, you may want to examine another snapshot from a nearby time.   

Subject Directories

If you do not know exactly what you are looking for, but want to get information on a general topic, consider using a subject directory.  These allow you to begin with a general topic such as "Business and Economy" and then narrow your topic to "Finance and Investment" and then further to "Banking" and so forth. Only a few years ago you had many such directories to choose from, but currently Yahoo Directory, About.com, and the Open Directory Project are the main sites of this kind.

Copyright 2012 by Val Burris