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What Is a Search Engine?

A web search engine is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web and FTP servers. The search results are generally presented in a list of results often referred to as SERPS, or "search engine results pages". The information may consist of web pages, images, information and other types of files. Some search engines also mine data available in databases or open directories. Unlike web directories, which are maintained by human editors, search engines operate algorithmically or are a mixture of algorithmic and human input.

-- from Wikipedia at

How Do Search Engines Work

Basically, Web search engines do three things:
  1. They search the Internet -- or select pieces of the Internet -- based on important words.
  2. They keep an index of the words they find, and where they find them.
  3. They allow users to look for words or combinations of words found in that index.

Do Search Engines Search the Entire Web?

"In a word, no. Search engines have millions of pages in their databases (Google alone indexes close to eight billion), but none of them even come close to indexing the whole Web, let alone the Internet. What are some pages that they exclude?" says Wendy Boswell from Visit to see why.

How to Search the Internet With Search Engines?

Web Search Engines vs. Libraries' Database

Apart from different search algorithm, the biggest difference is that Libraries' Databases are password protected. They are because they are purchased from vendors that have made efforts to purchase from scholarly publishers and make the publications available online and searchable. The majority of the resources from the databases are peer-reviewed. A peer-reviewed article found from the databases is as good as the copy of a print scholarly journal article you make from a copy machine, only that their access is made more convenient.

What Do You Do After You Find Your Stuff?

Sample Search Engines

  • Google (You know Google, but do you know Google Scholar and its link back to WKU Libraries' Databases?)
  • Quixey (Find apps for your smart phones)

Future of Search Engines

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 Last Modified 9/24/14