Wednesday, 08 November 2017 11:56

Using the Internet for Research: Types of Search Tools for Researcher and Librarians

By: 

The internet is humongous. Finding what you need means that you should select from amongst millions and sometimes trillions of search results. However, no one can claim for sure that you have found the right information. Is the information reliable and accurate? Or would you have to shop for another set of information that is even better? Or say, relevant to the query – While the Internet keeps growing every single minute, the clutter makes it even harder to catch up with, and perhaps, a more valuable information keeps getting buried underneath it. Unfortunately, the larger the internet grows, it gets harder to find what you need.

Think of search engines and its browsers to be a set of information search tools that will fetch what you need from the Internet. But, a tool is as good as the job it gets done. While, Google, Bing, Yahoo and the like are considered a more generic tool for Internet search, they perform a “fit all search types job”. The search results throw tons of web pages at you and thus, much harder selections and surely less accuracy. 


A simple solution to deal with too much information on the Internet is out there, but only if you care to pay attention – here is a List of Over 1500 Search Engines and Directories to cut your research time in half.


There exists a whole new world of Internet search tools that are job specific and finds that information you need through filtered and precision search. They subscribe to the same world wide web and look through the same web pages as the main search engines, but only better. These search tools are split up into Specialized Search Engines and Online Directories.

The Specialized Search Engines are built to drill down into a more accurate type of information. They can collect a filtered and less cluttered search results when compared to the leading search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo. What makes them unique is their built-in ability to use powerful customized filters, and sometimes it has its database to deliver the type of information you need in specific file formats.

Advanced Research Method

We will classify Specialized Search Engines into Meta-crawlers (or Meta-SearchEngine) and the Specialized

Content SearchEngine

Unlike conventional search engines, the Meta-crawlers don’t crawl the web themselves, and they do not build their own web page indexes; instead, they allow search snippets to be collected (aggregated) from several mainstream search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo and similar) all at once. They don't have their proprietary search technology or the large and expensive infrastructure as the main search engines do. The Meta-crawler aggregates the results and displays these on their proprietary search result pages. In short, they usually concentrate on front-end technologies such as user interface experience and novel ways of displaying the information. They generate revenues by displaying ads and provide the user option to search for images, audio, video, news and even more options, simulating a typical search browsing experience.

Some of the well-known Meta-Crawlers to explore.

  • Ixquick  -  A meta-search engine with options for choosing what the results should be based on? - It respects the information privacy, and the results get opened in Ixquick proxy window.
  • Google - Considered the first stop by many Web searchers. Has a large index and results are known for their high relevancy. Includes ability to search for images, and products, among other features.
  • Bing- General web search engine from Microsoft.
  • Google Scholar - One of Google's specialized search tools, Google Scholar focuses primarily on information from scholarly and peer-reviewed sources. By using the Scholar Preferences page, you can link back to URI's subscriptions for access to many otherwise fee-based articles.
  • DuckDuckGoA general search engine with a focus on user privacy.
  • Yahoo!A combination search engine and human-compiled directory, Yahoo also allows you to search for images, Yellow Page listings, and products.
  • Internet Public LibraryA collection of carefully selected and arranged Internet reference sources, online texts, online periodicals, and library-related links. Includes IPL original resources such as Associations on the Net, the Online Literary Criticism Collection, POTUS: Presidents of the United States, and Stately Knowledge (facts about the states).
  • URI Libraries' Internet ResourcesThis is a collection of links collected and maintained by the URI librarians. It is arranged by subject, like our online databases, and provides access to free internet resources to enhance your learning and research options.
  • Carrot Search   A meta-search engine based on a variety of search engines. Has clickable topic links and diagrams to narrow down search results.
  • iBoogie  -  A meta-search engine with customizable search type tabs. Search rankings have an emphasis on clusters.
  • iSeek  – The meta-search results are from a compilation of authoritative resources from university, government, and established non-commercial providers.
  • PDF Search Engine  – Searches for documents with the following extensions such as, .doc, .pdf, .chm, rtf, .txt.

The Specialized Content Search Engine focuses on a specific segment of online content; that is why they are also called a Topical (Subject Specific) Search Engines. The content area may is based on topicality, media, and content type or genre of content – further to this, the source of material and the original function it performs in transforming it, is what defines their specialty.

We can go a bit further and split these into three groups.

Information Contribution – The information source can be data collected from a Public Contribution Resource Engines as social media contributions and from reference platform such as Wikis. Examples are YouTube, Vimeo, Linked-in, Facebook, Reddit. The other types are a Private Contribution Resource Engines of the searchable database. These are created internally by the efforts of the search engine vendors; examples are Netflix (movies), Reuters (news content), Tineye(image repository), LexisNexis (legal information).

Specialized Function - These are the search engines that are programmed to perform a type of service that is proprietary and unique. They execute tasks that involve collecting web content as information and work on it with algorithms of their own, adding value to the result it produces.

An example of such types of search engines are websites such as the Wayback Machine Organization that provides and maintain records of website pages that are no longer available online as a historical record. Alexa Analytics that performs web analytics and measures traffic on websites and provide performance metrics and Alpha Wolfram who is more than a search engine. It gives you access to the world's facts and data and calculates answers across a range of topics.

Information Category (Subject Specific material) - This is where the search is subject specific and based on the information it retrieves. It does this by a special arrangement with outside sources on a consistent basis. Some of their examples are found under the broader headings.

  • Yellow Pages and phone directories
  • PeopleSearch
  • Government Database and archives
  • Public libraries
  • News Bureaus, Online Journals, and magazines
  • international organizations

web directory or Link Directory is a well-organized catalog on the World Wide Web. A collection of data organized into categories and subcategories. This directory specializes in linking to other web sites and categorizing those links. The web directory is not a search engine, and it does not show numerous web pages from the keyword search. Instead, it exhibits a list of website links according to category and subcategory. Most web directory entries are not commonly found by web crawlers. Instead, they are searched by humans. This categorization encompasses the whole website instead of a single page or a set of keywords; here the websites are often limited to inclusion in only a few categories. Web directories often allow site owners to submit their site for listing and have editors review submissions for its fitness.

The directories are distinguished into two broad categories.

Public Directories that do not require user registration or fee; and the Private Directories with an online registration that may or may not be subject to a fee for inclusions in its listings. Examples of Paid Commercial Versions.

The Public Directories is for General Topics, or it can be Subject Based or Domain-Specific Public Directories.

The General Topics Directory carry popular reference subjects, interests, content domains and their subcategories. Their examples are, DMOZ  (The largest directory of the Web. The open content is mirrored at many sites, including the Google Directory (until July 20, 2011). The A1 Web Directory Organization (This is a general web directory that lists various quality sites under traditional categories and relevant subcategories). The PHPLink Directory  ( A Free Directory Script phpLD is released to the public as a free directory script in 2006, and they continue to offer this as the free download).

The Subject Based or Domain-Specific Public Directories are subject and topic focused. A more famous of these are Hot Frog (a commercial web directory providing websites categorized topically and regionally). The Librarians Index to Internet (directory listing program from the Library of California) and OpenDOAR  (This is an authoritative directory of academic open access repositories).

The PrivateDirectories requires online registration and may be subject to a fee for inclusions in its listings.

Examples of Paid Commercial Versions.

  • Starting Point Directory - $99/Yr
  • Yelp Business Directory - $100/Yr
  • Manta.com - $299/Yr

The Directories that require registration as a member, employee, student or a subscriber.  Examples of these types are found in.

  • Government Employees Websites (Government Secure Portals)
  • Library Networks (Private, Public and Local Libraries)
  • Bureaus, Public Records Access, Legal Documents, Courts Data, Medical Records

The Association of Internet Research Specialists (AIRS) have compiled a comprehensive list they call an "Internet Information Resources." There you will find an extensive collection of Search Engines and interesting information resources for avid Internet research enthusiasts; especially, those that seek serious information without the hassle of sifting through the many pages of the unfiltered Internet. Alternatively, one can search through Phil Bradley’s website or The Search Engine’s List that has some interesting links for the many alternatives to typical search engines out there. 

 Author: Naveed Manzoor [Toronto, Ontario] 

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