Homework Help - Search & Cite Site

Organizing Your Search: Engines, Citations, and Bots

Integrating U. S. History with Educational Technology
Deborah T. Aufdenspring
New Technology High School
Napa, California


You might find this page helpful by itself, or you might want to open its two companion pages: Homework Help - U. S. History and Homework Help - Chat with Ms. A. Then you can flip back and forth amongst them with your browser by using the "Back" and "Forward" buttons.

If you are going to search the Internet, I've included below some reminders of the subjects we've talked about in class. Text and links are divided into six categories:

ORGANIZING YOUR SEARCH - A reprise of our classroom discussions.
SEARCH ENGINES - Including image search and Spanish language engines.
HANDY TOOLS - Including Spanish/English, English/Spanish dictionary.
BOOKS ON-LINE - Including some handy reference books.
BOTS - Are "bots" useful in research? Stay tuned.
CITATIONS - I don't accept papers or projects without proper citations.
SEARCHING ON THE INTERNET - A tongue-in-cheek refresher course.

You are free to organize your search and use whatever search engine you wish. However, you are not free to simply use information you've found in your assignments without citing the source. You also need to remember the copyright laws we have discussed. Don't forget the terms of our Acceptable Use Policy.

Organizing Your Search

You can save a lot of time by organizing your search ahead of time. Browsing is fun and educational, but if you do too much of it, your assignment will be late.

Decide upon the words for which you will search. Decide upon the type of search engine you will use. Find out how the search engine works (almost all of them have help links that will tell you). Decide how to string your search words together (with "+", or "AND" or "OR", etc.) and then search. In general, "+" in front of a word will include it,. "-" in front of a word will exclude it. In Boolean searches, "AND" will expand your search, "AND NOT" will limit it. Quotation marks around your search words will make them a phrase that will be searched for as a phrase. But these conventions differ. Again, find out how the search engine works by finding its help section.

After examining the search results, decide if you need to narrow or expand your search by adding or subtracting search words. If you aren't getting any useful information, perhaps you need to decide on different search words and try again. If you still aren't finding the information you need, try another search engine. Different engines have access to different information, although much will overlap.

The public library at Berkeley has bookmarked a couple of documents that might help you.

Choosing a search engine - This page describes a number of the most popular search engines and what type of search the library thinks they do best.

What is a search engine, how does it work - This page describes how to get the most out of a search engine.

Search Engines You Might Want to Use

Perhaps the fastest way to get to a search engine is to click on the "search" buton at the top of your Netscape (or other) browser. All of these engines work just fine. After you've found engines you like, you might want to bookmark them on your browser.

Remember that search words can be entered in languages other than English, such as Spanish (Espanol). Do not use accent marks, such as tilde signs, umlauts, etc.

My favorites (which don't have to be yours) amongst general engines are:

Alta Vista - I've been using this since it debuted. It takes some thought, though, to phrase your search in such a way as to not get 100,000 finds.

HotBot - Newer, larger and faster (or so they claim) than AltaVista, with a lot of the same virtues and faults. I'm using it more and more.

Inference - A parallel engine that uses a number of other search engines for you at the same time. Unlike other parallel engines, it collates all of the finds and throws out the duplicates. It also groups the finds by the type of server (commercial, educational, etc.) and geographic location (Europe, North America, California, etc.) This is helpful, and I expect to use it a lot, but I don't think it is doing as extensive a search as HotBot and Alta Vista.

Specialized Engines search particular subjects or data banks. There are hundreds of them. Below are links to libraries of specialized engines, and a few particularly useful ones:

Beaucoup - This page has categorized links to hundreds of search engines, specialized and general. It also offers foreign language translations, including Espanol, of the major engines.

Sistemas de Busqueda - Netscape offers a wide selection of search methods in Espanol (Spanish).

Library of Congress - Searches all Library of Congress web pages and gopher menus.

Search an outline of American History - Searches an outline of U.S. history (from the Revolution to Reconstruction and beyond) for keywords.

Image Engine

Image Surfer
- Enter your keyword(s) and get back miniature versions of pictures that correlate with your keywords. The engine only finds images that have filenames and whose filenames include your keyword. Click on the miniatures to access the full image on its web page. We didn't have much luck finding any images with this engine that related to the haiku topics, but you might do better.

Handy Tools

Acronyms and Abbreviations - If you run across acronyms (e.g., WPA, CINCPAC, etc.) in your search, here is a handy site that will explain the meaning for you.

Spanish/English, English/Spanish Dictionary - This is a handy cross-language dictionary if you run across a Spanish or English word you don't understand. This same site also has cross-language dictionaries for Italian, German, French and Portuguese.

Books on-line

On-line Books Page - A list from Carnegie Mellon University of all the books that have been converted to digital text and that are available on your computer.

Bartleby Library at Columbia University - Easily accessible books including reference and works of fiction. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is here and searchable. If you're having writing problems, Strunk's The Elements of Style and Fowler's The King's English are also here.


Bots are little programs that you give set of directions to and then set loose on the internet. Search bots that constantly seek information for you might be useful in your research. If you think you may want to try this, Botspot has a number of these search bots. Go to their homepage and then click on the "search" icon. Then find the list of search bots. Pick the bot that seeems like it will do what you want. Make sure it's a free bot, though. Some search bot searches cost money.

Citations: How to Cite the Information You Find

A quick review of what we have discussed in class:

In citing World Wide Web sources, cite the author's name (if known), the title of the work in quotation marks, the title of the complete work (if applicable), the http address, and the date you visited the site.
An example (using this page): Aufdenspring, Deborah T. "Homework Help - Search and Cite Site". Ms. A's Class - Deborah Aufdenspring. http://www.aufdenspring.com/search. 10/15/96

For gopher sites, FTP transfers, e-mail and other electronic sources, review the citation styles at the MLA Style Sheet site.

Searching on the Internet:

A tongue-in-cheek refresher course by Deborah Aufdenspring

You know the scenario. Your assignment is to write an epistolary of letters between a soldier in WW1 and his mother. You've got to find some accurate historical details to include in your letters. So, you go to a search engine, Excite, or AltaVista or Yahoo or whatever. Mostly, you click the "Net Search" button on Netscape Navigator then go to whatever search engine looks good. (Guess what! Those search engines pay lots of money to Netscape and Microsoft to appear when you click the "Net Search" button. They're there because they paid - not necessarily because they're good.)

Now you have a search engine. What do you type in? Hmmm ? ? ? How about: letters, epistolary, WWI, and mother? Yeah. That works. So Yahoo give you back 47,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 search results - everything with WWI, mother, epistolary and letters in it. What went wrong ? ? ? ? ? Why did you not get a tidy little packet of letters written by a soldier in WW1 ? ? ? ? What a lame search engine! What a lame Internet navigator! What a lame assignment!

OK. You're not that stupid, but maybe you've forgotten some basics. Here they are. Tattoo them in your brain cells. Frame this paper. Spend the next 6 months memorizing this stuff. I don't care. Whatever works. Follow these steps and you will no longer tear your hair out over Internet searches.

Step 1: Do the background reading in your textbook and write down whatever words look like they are important. Textbooks call them "key words;" so do search engines. What does that tell you? These words are important.

Step 2: Really - do the background reading. You don't know what you're looking for if you don't do the reading. If your textbook doesn't have much background, get another book. Read. Read. Read.

Step 3: Decide on a search engine. Some of the best ones do not appear when you click the "Netsearch" button on Netscape. Remember Inference - it's good; it's fast, and it's a parallel search engine (It searches many other search engines at the same time): http://m5.inference.com/ifind/

There is a folder near the handouts that has analyses and rankings of search engines. Great reading. You'll love it.

Step 4: Go to the help section of the search engine you've decided on. It will tell you how to search. Adopt a search engine. Decide on one or two search engines that are your favorites. Copy their help pages to a MS Word document and print them out. Keep them forever for reference.

Here are some general hints:
1. If you want to search on all the words, keep them together with quote marks. For example, don't enter: World War One. Enter "World War One"

2. If you want World War One diaries try "World War One" + diaries. Or, "World War One" and diaries.

3. If you want World War One, but you don't want weapons, try "World War One" - weapons or "World War One" not diaries

The key here is to focus on good key words, which words you now know, because you did your background reading!

Step 5: If you get too few returns from your search, broaden the search by eliminating some key words.

Example 1: If you searched for "World War One" + diaries + "United States", eliminate "United States." If the search still returns too few articles, eliminate diaries. (Notice that "United States" was in quotes so that every article with "United" in it and every article with "states" in it didn't come up.

If you get too many returns, do just the opposite. Add key words until your search returns are a reasonable number.

Step 6: Go to the next pages in your search engine. Most search engines return searches 10 items (more or less) per page. The bottom of the page has additional search results. Go to them. Below is what the bottom of an Alta Vista page looks like.

http://kali.murdoch.edu.au/hfilm/BOMBAY.html - size 34K - 17 Jun 96

p. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 [Next] (These are the the additional pages. Click them for more information.)

Surprise . Legal . FAQ . Add URL . Feedback . Text-Only

Step 7: Be real patient. Almost no search will return a completed assignment for you. It takes time and cutting and pasting and note taking, and all those things. Be ready to take notes, think, and put information together. You might even have to take notes with a pencil and a paper. That's OK.

Step 8: Know that it's OK if you donít get this the first time. I know that in English/History it's hard to get help, but we will try hard to get to you if you do need help. Ask. Whimper. Yell. Demand. Keep trying. If all else fails - e-mail us and tell us to get to you before the next ice age.


Step 1: Do the background reading in your textbook and write down whatever words look like they are important.
Step 2: Really - do the background reading.
Step 3: Decide on a search engine.
Step 4: Go to the help section of the search engine you've decided on.
Step 5: If you get too few returns from your search, broaden the search by eliminating some key words.
Step 6: Go to the next pages in your search engine.
Step 7: Be real patient. Be ready to take notes, think, and put information together.
Step 8: Know that it's OK if you don't get this the first time.



E-mail me.

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