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The web – University of Reading

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The web

The Internet can provide a wealth of information - not all of it is good and reliable. Read our tips on evaluating websites to help you judge the value of what you have found. Our search tips (below) can also help you make a search more accurate and save you time.

For sites related to your subject see the list of useful websites compiled by your subject librarian. If you are looking for academic articles and book chapters on a topic try searching the Summon discovery service or a relevant subject database.

Below are a selection of search engines and directories you can use to find information on the web.

Guides and tutorials on searching the Internet

Virtual Training Suite - offers excellent tutorials in specific subject areas spiced up with quizzes and interactive exercises. Tour key web sites for your subject; find out how to search the Internet; learn how to judge sites; and read tips on making the most of the Internet for your studies.

Search tips

When using many search engines, these tips can help improve the relevancy of your results:

  • avoid irrelevant matches by using the plus symbol in front of words you want, for example +food +safety
  • omit false matches by use a minus symbol in front of words you don't want, for example -poisoning
  • search for phrases using inverted commas, for example  "food safety"
  • use partial sentences as search terms, for example "wire a plug" instead of "how to wire a plug"

Check the help pages on your favourite search engine to check that they support these techniques and for additional search tips.  

Search engines and Internet directories

This is a selection of the search engines and Internet directories available.

Academic search engines and directories

  • Google Scholar - use to find scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research 

Other search engines and directories 

There can be surprising little overlap in coverage between search engines as each has its own method of searching - so make sure you try more than one! Look at the search help for each one for tips on making the most of them.

  • - ask a question in plain English
  • Dogpile - meta search engine that searches across Google, Yahoo and other search engines. It shows you the results that look most relevant and removes any duplicates. 
  • Exalead - sign up and you can personalise it; advanced search functions include word stemming, approximate spelling, file type searching; narrow searches too eg non-commercial sites
  • Google - probably the most popular search engine. Possible to use the search operator 'or' to find alternatives, for example 'milk or cheese'.  You can also use the asterisk * in place of a word, for example 'smallest * in the world'.
  • Yahoo - allows you to use the search operator 'or' to include alternatives in your search

Find other search engines using the Search Engine Colossus - an international directory of search engines.  

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