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Information Literacy for First Year Students: Lesson 7: Using the Internet

Information Literacy Programme for first year students. Start with "Home" and finish with "Unit 7: Information Identity" Assistance to enrol, click here Blackboard user

Search engines

A search engine is a website that collects and organises content from all over the Internet.  


  • The indexes of search engines are usually vast, representing significant portions of the Internet, offering a wide variety and quantity of information resources.The large number and variety of search engines enriches the Internet, making it at least appear to be organised.
  • In addition to keywords, search engines let you use advanced search options to refine your results. These options help make your searches more flexible and sophisticated.
  • Good source to locate scholarly information


  • Anyone can publish information on the Internet
  • No bibliographic control on published  information
  • Content and features of sites change very fast
  • Creates information overload


General: Google, Google Scholar, Bing (Microsoft's search engine),

Google tips

Internet searches, such as using the search engine ‘Google’ will give you different types of information than searching a scholarly journal database.

Recognise official links as opposed to commercial websites.
• .edu (It sometimes means it is related to educational or research material)
• .gov (It usually means it is related to government resources ).
• .org (It usually is related to official organisations, eg. United Nations)

Google will also provide ‘related searches’ that might help you to narrow down your research topic. For example you need information on the postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson.

Scroll down to bottom of page and look at what type of information it provides. This might help you to narrow down your search.

• Put quotation marks "__" around words that you want to search as a phrase; i.e. “semiotics analysis"
• To remove a word from your search use the hyphen (minus sign) - just in front of the word; i.e. semiotics theorists
• -Barthes (excludes search term)
• -COM will remove commercial sites from your results.
• To search colleges & university sites, use site: edu as part of your search. You can use site: with any domain. Must be a lower case (s) in site. No suffixes. Eg
• A plus + symbol in front of a word means the word will definitely be in your search; i.e. +“barthes“
• .. Shows all results from within the designated time range, e.g 2008..2013.
• Just put define:… in front of the word you want, e.g define: semiotics