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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 2 months ago

Free is as Free Does


Steven M. Cohen

Senior Librarian

Law Library Management, Incorporated





How to Search Like a Pro


A. What’s the Difference Between a Search Engine and a Directory?


A directory is a manually built hierarchy of any type of content. On the Web, thousands of directories exist and most are searchable. Examples of general web directories are Yahoo (http://dir.yahoo.com) and The Open Directory Project (http://dmoz.org). These are human collected and generated. Search engines, however, are built by humans to go out to millions of web sites and index the content from those sites. As with directories, some search engines are topic specific. Since directories are human built, they tend to be more out of date as far as resources than search engines. The bigger search engines are able to index data at an alarming rate.


That said, using directories can be useful and should not be ruled out when doing research. For example, if the researcher happens across a site that almost provides an answer, one could look that site up in a web directory to compile resources that are under the same subfolder.


B. How do Search Engines Really Work?


A search engine is a database. In order for the engine to collect data for the database, it sends out a “spider” to the Web to bring the content back into the database. When a query is entered into the engine, the database is searched. It is important to note that at no point is the user searching the “live” web. So, looking for up to the minute content on the major search engines will not bring back as up to date information that is needed for many research projects. There is also a lot of overlap between the engines (see: http://comparesearchengines.dogpile.com/) so it is also important to understand that in order to get the most comprehensive search out of using the free engines available, more than one should always be consulted.


C. Learn Boolean Logic to create the best Search Strategies.


All search engines have some sort of advanced logic inherent in their systems which allows for more specified searching. Advanced search pages were created to allow the use of Boolean without the user having to know the query strings. It has been noted in numerous studies that only 2% of searchers use the advanced search page.




Google – (http://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en)

Yahoo – (http://search.yahoo.com/search/options?fr=fp-top&p=)

Ask Jeeves – (http://webk.ask.com/webadvanced?o=0)


D. Which Search Engines Are the Best?


There is no best search engine for all searching needs. Different search engines should be used depending on the research needed. For example, for searching blog content, the general search engines are not the best approach. There are blog specific engines available (PubSub and Technorati, for example) that do a better job in the marketplace. Google and Yahoo have come out with blog specific engines over the past year, but they pale in comparison to those that work specifically in the blog medium.


There are also niche engines that are underutilized by the general public. These subject specific engines only index certain content and are more useful than the bigger, more general engines. Also, since they have less indexed content, relevant content will not get buried in numerous results pages (most searchers do not look beyond the first results page)


A few examples of these niche engines:


1) Librarians Internet Index – (http://www.lii.org) – human selected content for reference librarians.

2) General Business – (http://www.business.com)

3) Search EDU – (http://www.searchedu.com/) – Education Specific.


E. Learn Browser Tricks - The Power of the "Find" Function to Scan Web Pages Quickly


There are many useful browser functions in both Internet Explorer and Firefox, the two leading Internet Browsers. In addition, one should be cognizant of the numerous toolbars and desktop search tools that can be attached to these browsers.


Internet Explorer Tricks


1) Links section for Bookmarklets (Bookmarklets allow for quick and easy action based browser movements)

2) CTRL-F – Easy to find keywords on a page


Firefox Tricks


1) Search box on the top right. This can be customized.

2) CTRL-F is still usable here.

3) Make use of the tabs feature

4) LiveMarks (Read blogs and other syndicated content)

5) Since the software is open source, it allows for more development than other browsers. For many more extentions, see https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/?application=firefox

6) Pop-up blocker

7) My Favorite Extensions

8) Jacuba – (http://www.jacuba.com) - Spell check when filling out forms

9) Create your own search bookmarklet – (http://www.bookmarklets.com/mk.phtml)




1) Technorati – (http://www.technorati.com)

2) Feedster – (http://www.feedster.com)

5) Del.icio.us - (http://del.icio.us/tag/blawg)

6) Del.icoi.us - (http://del.icio.us/tag/libraryblogs)

7) Opinmind - (http://www.opinmind.com)


Public Records


Be very very very afraid




1) Accessing Public Records




a) http://www.generalcode.com/webcode2.html

b) http://www.librarystuff.net/2006/08/just-bunch-of-tubes.html

c) http://a836-acris.nyc.gov/Scripts/Coverpage.dll/index

d) Corporations Search - http://appsext5.dos.state.ny.us/corp_public/corpsearch.entity_search_entry



2. Professional Licenses


a) http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm


Medical Records




3. Criminal Records


a) Inmate Finder - http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/LocateInmate.jsp

b) Sex Offender Databases - Almost every state has one


4. Vital Statistics: Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records


a) Most not available online.

b) http://www.birthdatabase.com/

c) http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi


5. Real and Personal Property Records


a) http://www.smithlib.org/page_town_taxes_intro.html

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