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Information Literacy: 17. Internet Search Tips

Strategies used to incorporate research skills for the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Management, the Pacific Northwest College of Arts, and the School of Computing and Informations Sciences.

Search Engines

No single search site can keep up with all of the content on the Internet. That is one reason why you can get very different results from different search sites.

Another is how search sites get the web pages they list. Some have robots or spiders (computer programs) that search other sites on the Internet, some have pages based on data input from people and others have a combination. There are many other differences in the programs that affect the outcome of a search. These are the best search sites on the Internet:


It's up to you to review the ones you find and see if they are suitable for your assignment. Use the criteria in the Evaluate Resources guide to help determine if your Internet information is suitable for college-level research. Here is a good site to help:

Search Tips

Most search engines, like Google, have advanced search features or tips for better searches, allowing you to refine your search results.  You can use the following search limits and more:

  • Published date or web page update
  • Search terms appearing only in the web page title, URL, page links
  • Eliminate from results those page that include unwanted search terms (NOT or -) (e.g. Donald Trump -Pelosi)
  • Filetype (doc, docx, ppt, pptx, pdf, xls, xlsx, jpg)
  • Domain of site (government - gov, mil; education - edu; organizations - org)
  • Use quotes ("") to search for exact phrases (e.g. "Rocket launch")
  • Use wildcard/truncation (*) to find variations of a root word (e.g. medic*)

If the search engine does not have a separate advanced search screen, use the search filters that appear on the search results page. 

Similar to how many of our databases allow you to find articles that cite the one you have found. Once you find an article in a library database or on the web that works perfectly for your paper. Search for that article title with quotes, and the search engine will return other papers on the web that contain your paper in their bibliographies. You can then scan their bibliographies for more papers on your topic.

Use synonyms of your search term (e.g. Native Americans, American Indians, indigenous peoples, etc.)

Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209