chapter caucus

Team Building Skills

Search Engines and Directories

There is not one single search engine that includes all the web pages on the Internet. By knowing the differences between search engines and directories, you will be able to perform better searches.

Crawler-Based Search Engines

Search engines are huge databases that you can search through to find web sites. Crawler-based search engines are collected by a computer program which is generally referred to as a crawler. Other terms used are spider, robot, or wanderer. These programs search the Internet for new and updated web sites to keep their databases current. When you enter keywords into a search engine, it searches for those keywords in its database and displays the relevant web pages.

The three most common crawler-based search engines are Google, Yahoo, and Ask. A fairly new search engine, Cuil, claims to be the world's largest.

While there are many search engines, most of them share the same databases. The main databases are Google, Yahoo, and Teoma, and Teoma is the database used by Ask.

Human-Powered Directories

Human-powered directories are created by people. Webmasters submit descriptions of their web sites, and people manually enter the information into a database. Updates to the web pages themselves are not caught automatically by these directories.

Open Directory is the most common of these, and previously Yahoo was based on a human-powered directory.

Hybrid Search Engines

Hybrid search engines pull information from both crawler- and human-based databases. These are also often called meta-search or meta-crawler engines. There is actually a hybrid search engine called Meta crawler. Dogpile is another popular meta-crawler engine. A few more are:

An unusual site, Kartoo, has a visual display of interactive maps that shows relationships between subtopics related to your keywords. As you select additional keywords, you are shown a new interactive map.

All-in-One Search Pages

These are web pages that allow you to select the search engine you want to use. They usually have a large variety of search engines for you to choose. Some of these are:

Boolean Searches

Most times when searching for a keyword, there are too many results. That is because many search engines look for any of the words you enter. Earlier you learned about using the Advanced Search features to limit your search. Some search engines, however, do not have an advanced search feature. In those cases you can use Boolean variables to limit your search. There are some basic things you can do to limit your search results:

Many search engines are moving to having a default of using the And logic. A quick way to check is to search both ways and see if the results change. The same thing is true for case sensitivity.


When most people think of directories, they think of phone books; the phone book's white pages and yellow pages are both available on the Web. In addition there are many other web sites devoted to finding people and businesses. A few are:

Web Directories

Using web directories for researching can help greatly because it is a good way to narrow your search. Looking at a specific directory will help you understand how the topics are organized within a more general topic. Search engine directories are a way for web sites to be organized. Not every directory uses the same categories, but some of the most common top-level categories are:

  • Arts
  • Business
  • Computers
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Health
  • Government
  • News
  • Recreation and Sports
  • Reference
  • Science
  • Social Science

Some directory searches will let you search within a category, and by doing so, your results will be more targeted to your interests. Also, some directories have editors who evaluate web sites (Open Directory, for example), and that will give you another person's opinion.

To see the difference between searching within a directory and searching the web, visit a few of the search engines and see what you find. For example, imagine that you need to learn about funerals and etiquette or customs.

Yahoo! started as a directory where the web sites were sorted by categories and then within categories into subcategories. As crawler-based search engines emerged, Yahoo evolved towards that technology; however, they have kept their directory structure. Now, it seems, many search engine sites are creating directory structures similar to Yahoo's. For example, Google now has a directory search.

The Open Directory Project considers itself to be the "largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory" on the Web. They have volunteers around the world who maintain their directory. One good thing they do is remove old, outdated information in their database. At their website, Open Directory compares itself to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and just as OED encompasses all the words, Open Directory wants to be the catalog of the Web. The Open Directory is free, and anyone can become one of the editors.

The Internet Public Library (IPL) is an interesting site and definitely worth a visit. IPL began in a graduate seminar at the University of Michigan in the winter term of 1995. In the class they were to discuss questions about the networked connections and communications between libraries on the Internet, and they were to design and build an Internet Public Library. The library opened on March 17, 1995.

The IPL has a general directory as well as a reference section and reading room.

Common Directories

Some of the more common directories are listed below:

Using Keywords

Keywords are the word(s) or phrases that you want to find information about. Since all searches are based on keywords, using the best keywords is very important. Webmasters also try very hard to have keywords in their web pages to get people to their sites. Because keywords are so important, there are several software products that webmasters can purchase to make sure they include the most popular and appropriate keywords on their web pages.

Before you start searching, make a list of keywords that relate to your topic. Also think of alternate spellings of words and other words that may be used. For example, if you want to find information about college admissions, you would also want to look for university admissions as well as post-secondary school admissions. A thesaurus would be handy to give you ideas.

Be creative in selecting your keywords to narrow down your topic. Using synonyms may help. There are even web sites that research what keywords are used and provide that information to webmasters. A few sites that may help you are noted below:

Here are some tips on choosing your keywords:

Online Dictionaies

Using dictionaries will give you some ideas for alternate words to use in your search. Definitions often give synonyms which could be helpful. Also, many dictionaries also include a thesaurus. Some free online dictionaries are listed below.

Next section:  Online Communication Tools

Team Building Skills
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