Parents As Internet Partners
Search Engines & Directories

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If you don't know the URL or web address for information you want on the Internet, what can you do? You can use a search engine or a directory to locate websites that have the answer to your query or question for a website.

Magnifying Glass Search Animation Search Engines

Search engines allow you to search the Internet for web pages that contain certain words or phrases.

A search engine uses a software program called a spider, crawler, or robot to go through hyperlinks from page to page on the World Wide Web to create an automated search index. This is a database that indexes some or all of the words appearing on web pages, except for common words such as "a," "and," "in," "to," "the," etc. So when you submit your query, the search engine goes through the index to find all the web pages containing those words, combinations of words, or phrases. The search engine gives you a list of the web pages that fits your query.

Search engines are computer programs that are totally automated. No one reviews the information returned by the spider to see if it is accurately reflects your search. No two search engines are the same because they are programmed to index differently, have different definitions for terms, have different ways of ranking results, or treat queries differently. Therefore, different search engines produce different results for the same query.

Magnifying Glass Search Animation Directories

A directory such as Yahoo has human editors to create its listings. A web master submits a description of his site to the directory for editors to review. Searches in a directory give matches based on the editors' descriptions of websites.

Magnifying Glass Search Animation Should you use a search engine or a directory?

Depending on what you are looking for on the Internet, you may choose to use a search engine rather than a directory. However, in other cases, you might find a directory is more useful. Try different search engines and directories, get familiar with how they operate, and decide which ones you like best. Even though many search tools are similar, they are all different. So if you don't find what you are looking for in one search tool, you might try another search engine or directory.
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Updated : March 7, 2002
© Henry Waldinger Memorial Library, 2002.