Web Searches

An Introduction
Some Key Issues
Web Links

Searching The Internet

James W. Drisko, PhD, LICSW
Smith College School for Social Work
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

(updated June, 2002)

For Beginners

A "handout" you can printout and read is available here as "An Introduction" to the World Wide Web.

Vernon, R., & Lynch, D. (2002). Social work and the web. Stamford, CT: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. An excellent introduction for beginners and intermediates alike.  About $32.00.  Online at Wadsworth, then click on World Wide Web.

Pick the standard search engine -- Google -- and get to know it. This, and other search engines are run by computers, known as spiders, that seek the phrase you enter. They find the phrase in the body of an Internet file or in hidden tags (called metatags) which are intended to help spiders find key information.  Google clearly marks paid ads and separates them from other search results -- others no longer do this.

Another approach is the use of human run directories. Yahoo!, for example, has information that has been vetted by real people. It may find less, but perhaps the content will be more germane.   

About.com is another human run information resource with many topical areas of interest to social workers.

Remember: Web searches can generate overwhelming amounts of information – which you must convert into knowledge.

The Kansas City Public Library offers an Introduction to Search Engines. 

A Google tutorial will get you started with this fine new search engine. 

AltaVista’s Tutorial is a fine introduction:

How to Search the World Wide Web: A Tutorial for Beginners and Non-Experts is offered by David P. Habib and Robert L. Balliot.

Carleton college libraries offers a useful "Webliography" about Internet search tools.


The University at Albany Libraries have a set of outstanding tutorials on using search engines and searching specific data bases.  They include A Basic Guide, and  How to Choose a Search Engine (for various file types);

Welcome to the Internet Search FAQ – just as its says, frequently asked question are answered and tips of find specific types of information online. Great for the "How can I find…" question.

J.F. Evans offers a solid overview of Medical Information Searches (and at other URLs, too)


Advanced Features and Comparisons

Meta Search Engines
, those that search using more than one search engine at a time, are described by Nancy Garman in a piece from ONLINE, May 1999.

Strategies for Searching for Information on the Internet is very detailed and relatively current (Nov. 1999). Very good on international searches as well. By Laura A. Guy.

The University of California at Berkeley offers Constructing and Refining Searches in Google

The State University of New York Libraries offers a fine Introduction to Boolean Searches and Second-generation Search Engines

Google now includes complete Adobe Acrobat .pdf text files, unique among search engines.

back to top

to Social Work Resources Home Page

J.W. Drisko, 4/26/00, updated 7/06/02