Searching the Internet

Looking for information in all the wrong places?

That's a song that Internet searchers could sing day after day. Spending hours (even days) looking for something online can be frustrating. Here are some tips and favorite sites that our reference librarians use to find what they're looking for....
Play - Don't just use the Internet when you are under a time crunch to find something. The more comfortable you are using the Internet, the quicker you will find what you're looking for.
Check out the help section of search engines you're using -This may seem obvious, or just plain boring, but they don't all work the same way.   Also, the designs of web sites change all the time and this is the way to keep up with their features. For example – Google’s Help Center at gives great hints, such as adding the plus (+) or minus (-) sign to limit a search.
Pick a few search engines and learn all about them - Skipping from search engine to search engine will make you more frustrated. Spend some time learning the features of a few search engines and you will be surprised to find that the quality of your result lists will increase. Search engines have their own personalities....some are more linear than others, some are organized like phone books, some search only websites they have "catalogued", and then there are those that you can't detect any organizational structure, but you still get good results (go figure)! To find a list of most of the search engines available out there, visit Internet Tutorials for a list of search engines at
Try to be specific when selecting your search terms - Don't use obvious search terms, like ‘computer’ or ‘information’. If you use the word ‘computer’ when searching you will pull up millions and millions of pages you don't want. Add more terms that will help narrow the search down, such as ‘computer repair tutorials’.
Go to school – there are online tutorials that will help you learn how to surf the web. We recommend:
Includes lessons on search strategies, search engines, subject directories, how to find things on the “invisible web”, evaluating web pages, and much more.
Four Nets for Better Searching:
Learn how to search effectively using Google.
This site offers tutorials in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. Topics include finding information on the web, using e-mail, and building a web site.
Aimed at students, but has good advice on how to "sort out the gems from the junk on the Internet".
You will not find everything on the Internet: Some information is still best found elsewhere. People are scanning furiously to get things online but, due to copyright laws and the law of “there isn't enough time in the day”, you may find that coming in to the library is still the quickest way to find what you need.
Favorite online resources that CRRL librarians use to find information:
Online databases: 
The library subscribes to reference databases and you can access them with your 14-digit library barcode. There is information at your fingertips about health, business, current events, literature, and people (biographies). Access our databases using the Articles & Databases link under our "Library Basics" menu.
Search engines:
Google or Yahoo or Alltheweb – basic search engines and all are good for general information. Try each sites advanced search to see how you can perform a more targeted search.
CRRL Librarians also recommend these websites/search engines:
Open Directory Project: a good fallback when search engines don't find what you need.  It provides human expertise on all sorts of subjects.
Picsearch, Flickr, or Google Images - for images (pictures)
Mamma - metasearch engine – it searches many web search engines so you don’t have to
refdesk - the “Fact checker for the Internet” – provides links to thousands of great web sites – collection of business oriented links – for basic information on almost any topic
Just can't find what you want?
Call us!  Sometimes the information you are seeking will not be found online, but in a book or magazine. You can call one of our reference desks (phone numbers can be found here: for help in locating resources. Or contact our online reference service. You can chat live with a librarian or send an e-mail to a librarian, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!