The internet provides access to a wealth of information on virtually every topic. It is a good source of information not available in scholarly literature, such as:
- company information
- technical information (such as software documentation and help manuals)
- images and multimedia
- government information
- open access research.
However, finding relevant, reliable and accurate information on the internet can be challenging. Use the following tips to make sure you get the best out of your web searches.
Tips for searching the internet
Tip #1 Use search limits
Search engines have unique limiters you can use to help identify the most relevant resources for your search. Two of the most popular and useful limiters are Domain/site and File type.
Definition: part of the URL that tells you what type of organisation is responsible for the web page.
|.com||commercial||www.sony.com.au Sony Australia|
|.edu||educational||www.qut.edu.au Queensland University of Technology|
|.ac||academic||www.ox.ac.uk University of Oxford|
|.gov||government||www.qld.gov.au Queensland Government|
|.org||organisation||www.apa.org American Psychological Association|
|.net||network organisation||www.aspe.net American Society for Precision Engineering|
File type (filetype:)
Definition: The type of file or document other than a website (HTML).
For example, when searching for government reports, try combining your keywords with filetype:pdf and site:gov to narrow your results down to documents published by or hosted on a Government department website. You can also include a country domain if searching for Australia-specific content (e.g. site:gov.au). Combine these limits with your keywords in the normal Google search box, or use the Advanced Search.
Tip #2 Use the Google advanced search
Google Advanced Search gives you more options to refine and specify your Google search. It has filtering options similar to an academic database, as well as fields that incorporate search operators AND, OR, and NOT, and phrase searching.
- Phrase searching
- Excluding certain terms
- Last updated date
- Terms appearing (where on a page a particular term is found - for example in the title, URL or throughout the page)
Tip #3 Use different search engines for different tasks
Though Google still reigns as the dominant search engine, search functionality is continually improving and different search engines are constantly becoming available.
Some specialist Internet search tools that may prove useful are:
- Google Scholar: a subset of Google limited to scholarly publications. A good tool for ensuring a comprehensive search of all the literature available, or for an initial search on a topic.
- Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE): a search engine that provides access to open access scholarly resources.
- Creative Commons (CC): an international, non-profit organisation aimed at content sharing and re-use. They provide free licences and tools to content creators (authors, artists, musicians) that enable others to re-use, remix and share their work legally. The Creative Commons search portal makes it easy for you to use images, music and video and other content appropriately and attribute correctly. QUT cite|write has more information on copyright and finding and using Creative commons materials.