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Specialized Search Engines

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  • Naveed ul Haq Hashmi
    Most of us have the Google Toolbar installed on our browser, which means that Google is the first place we go to search the web. Of course, you can use the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2004
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      Most of us have the Google Toolbar installed on our browser,
      which means that Google is the first place we go to search
      the web. Of course, you can use the Groowe toolbar to
      expand your search engine options (see
      http://www.batesinfo.com/tip.html#mar04 for a discussion
      of this), but sometimes what you really need is a
      specialized tool for a specialized function.

      If you have a factual question -- how tall is the
      Eiffel Tower? when was the first landing on the moon?
      who won the 1986 Tour de France? -- consider using a search
      engine that handles natural language queries, such as
      Ask Jeeves (http://www.ask.com). (And if you haven't
      tried Ask Jeeves lately, check it out again. It has
      improved significantly over the last year or two.)

      Also consider BrainBoost (http://www.brainboost.com) for
      finding answers to questions. In addition to handling
      natural language questions well, it offers a "Snap
      Open" feature on the search results page. Click the Snap
      Open link, and BrainBoost will display the web page
      with the answer, scrolling down to where the text appears
      on the page.

      If you have a quick look-up question -- something that
      could be answered from an almanac, encyclopedia, or
      other "ready-reference" source -- try InfoPlease
      (http://www.infoplease.com), produced by the publisher
      of the Information Please almanac and other reference
      books. You can find information on the 10 most popular
      breeds of cat, a listing of the most significant
      discoveries of 2003, or a profile of the Republic of
      Singapore by typing in one or two words in the search
      box at the main InfoPlease page.

      What about research that you think might best be answered
      by a book rather than a web site? A9.com (http://a9.com)
      is a search engine that relies primarily on Google for
      web search results. What's intriguing about it, though,
      is that it also includes Amazon.com's "Search Inside
      the Book" feature in the search results page. A search
      for "intelligent machines", for example, turns up books
      that either have that phrase in the title or - more
      intriguing - books in which the phrase appears within
      the text. If you have an account with Amazon.com, you can
      view the snippets of where the phrase shows up in the
      books. Note that if you use the anonymous version of
      A9.com (http://generic.a9.com in which your search history
      is not saved), you will not be able to view the snippets
      of text.

      If you are looking for science-related information, one
      of my favorite specialized search tools is Scirus
      (http://www.scirus.com), a powerful combination of a
      web search engine and a database of published scientific
      articles. Look for the phrase "soil remediation", for
      example, and you will retrieve not only web sites but
      summaries of articles from the Medline database as well
      as links to articles from ScienceDirect, which can be
      purchased with a credit card. Note that, like a number
      of search engines, Scirus offers a "Refine Your Search"
      option that lists words and phrases that frequently appear
      in the retrieved sources. So, for example, I was reminded
      that I might want to narrow my search with the words
      bioremediation or soil washing.

      How do you find these specialized research tools? Two
      annotated directories of search engines, directories and
      databases are GeniusFind (http://www.geniusfind.com) and
      Beaucoup (http://www.beaucoup.com).

      Note that GeniusFind is not meta search engine; you cannot
      conduct a search of the web through GeniusFind. Rather, you
      can drill down through its subject categories to locate
      specialized resources that focus on anthropology, for

      Beaucoup, on the other hand, does function as a meta search
      engine; you can search 10 search engines at one time, or
      you can click on one of the subject links from the main
      page of Beaucoup to find specialized search tools and
      databases on specific topics.

      So, as useful as your Google toolbar is, consider expanding
      your collection of tools to include some of the more
      specialized databases and search engines. Sometimes you
      need more than just a hammer to get the job done.


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