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Guide to Doing Research on the Web


The Web was launched in 1991 and is now one of the largest services on the Internet, estimated to be growing at an approximate rate of 5 million web pages per day. Accessing information on the Web is easy; finding the correct information is more difficult.

To successfully search the WWW you need to be aware of the different search tools available. The most common search tools are search engines & subject directories-they are browsed or searched by formulating a search query.

Search Engines

Search Engines are huge databases of WWW pages. Some popular search engines are:

When should I use a search engine?

  • If you are looking for a narrow or obscure topics or general facts.
  • If you want to search for a specific site or the full text of millions of pages.
  • when you want to search for particular file types, languages, source locations.

Subject Directories

These are specialised directories on different subject areas & include:

When should I use a subject Directory?

  • When you have a broad topic.
  • A list of sites on your topic that are recommended by experts.

Search Tips

  • Read the searching tips or help page on each search engine / subject directory.
  • Use Advance Search facilities.
  • Use what are known as Boolean Operators (AND, OR or NOT). To do this, enter your first search term now enter a Boolean operator (AND, OR or NOT). Enter subsequent search term. For example: Computers AND Multimedia

Truncation searching

You can look for variations on a search term. To do this use an asterisk *, known as a
‘wildcard’ operator. Enter the first few letters (or stem) of your search term followed by the wildcard operator e.g. manage* will retrieve documents containing ’manage', ’manager', ’management', etc.

Phrase searching

Enclose your keywords in double quotes "" to search for exactly that phrase.
E.g. if you wish to search on “management of organizations”, use the inverted commas to search on the phrase otherwise the search engine will search on management and organization as single entities and return too many hits.

Note - no one search engine covers the entire web and they do not search all kinds of documents. So use different search engines & different search terms when searching the WWW.

Evaluating the quality of web information

The web has long passed the three billion documents stage. The difficulty is that high quality information resides alongside useless information on the WWW.

Search engines databases are not generally updated daily or monthly. The information that is returned is in some cases weeks, months or even years old. The very nature of the web is that it is a self-publishing medium and is open to abuse.

Users need to be able to evaluate information and understand that not all information on the web is of equal value or reliability. The following criteria should guide you when identifying quality information on the WWW:

  • Identifying the purpose of a source. (Why is it on the web?)
  • Assessing coverage.(Is it detailed and comprehensive?)
  • Assessing authority and reputation.(Says who, who is the author?)
  • Assessing accuracy. (Is it correct, can you check it’s accuracy?)
  • Assessing the currency and maintenance of a source.(Last update)
  • Evaluating the presentation and arrangement of information.
  • Assessing how easy a source is to use.
  • Making a comparison with other sources.
  • Assessing the overall quality of a source.


  • Further information on searching the web may be accessed via the following web sites:
  • Learn the Net - Internet Guide and Tutorial.
  • Bare Bones 101 - a tutorial on searching the web with evaluations of the major search engines.
  • UC Berkeley Internet Tutorial - useful guide to searching the Internet and evaluating information from the University of California.
  • Internet 101 - for those who wish to learn the basics about the Internet

Quick Links

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