Searching Exercises

  Netscape's search button

Exercise 1. Click on the Netscape Search button

This takes you to Netscape's NetCenter, where a number of search engines and specialized searching tools are displayed. The "featured" engine at the top of the page will cycle through several of the major players in the industry, all of whom pay dearly for the privilege of being listed and so easily accessible.

Notice you can pick your favorite to be displayed for you each time you return.



Exercise 2. Go to Alta Vista at

In Netscape - you can just type in "altavista" (without the quotes in the location field.

Exercise 2a. Always try a "natural language" search first. Just ask a question.

  1. Who won the 1973 Nobel Prize in Medicine?
  2. What are the jobs in biology?

Exercise 2b. Search engines handle phrase searching differently. Alta vista now assumes that you're looking for the exact phrase you enter. Otherwise - you may need to enclose the phrase in quotes.

  • With Altavista "mass extinction" (in quotes) yields 3,202 pages - and mass extinction (without quotes) also yields 3203 pages. This may be different for other search engines.

Exercise 2c. Use Alta Vista's Refine Your Search Button to narrow search further

In above example:
  1. EXCLUDING the word "asteroid" reduces the number to 2,451 hits
  2. Note: These "Refine" lists are built automatically, based on the frequency certain words appear on the pages. In this example, all the suggested words make sense, but be aware that other searches may yield some odd suggestions.

  3. Clicking "refine again" yields a second subset of words
  Excite's Special Features

Exercise 3. Explore some special features of at

Exercise 3a. Search for endangered species

Note a couple of things. Right below your search term, the "Search Wizard" lists additional words to add to your search. These are derived automatically from the documents found. Also - notice the relevancy ratings, with 100% being a perfect match.

Exercise 3b. Put quotes around the phrase "endangered species".

Excite fouund 268,033 hits in the above example. Restricting the search to the exact phrase reduced the number of hits to 43,480 hits - still a lot, but reduced.

Exercise 3c. Search News Articles by clicking link or scrolling to the bottom of the screen.

Exercise 3b. Return to the top of the page and scroll down to the article on endangered species of Hawaii and use the "More Like This" function

Now more of your documents will be on Hawaii. If a search returns a document that is just what you're looking for, this option will use that document as a model for a new search to find similar documents. This is called "query by example" and can be an immensely powerful tool.

Exercise 3c. Click on the "List by Web Site" function

This is a good way to identify the web servers that may have mor
  Web Directories - Yahoo

Exercise 4a. Examine the Web's most extensive directory at

Type "endangered species" again. Yahoo requires the quotes for a phrase search. You'll find far less sites, but they'll be subdivided into useful categories having to do with science, business, entertainment, regional and so on. Results are returned for both Catagories and Web Sites.

Exercise 4b. Create your own web searching lesson plan by following the steps below:

  1. Computers and the Internet
  2. WWW
  3. Searching the Web
  4. How to Search the Web

Note: You can do keyword searchs in Yahoo also, and confine search to the category you're browsing or to all of Yahoo. One nice touch is that if Yahoo finds no matches in it's own database it automatically submits your query to the more robust Altavista.

  White Pages

Exercise 5. Search for people and businesses using . Look up your own name.

  Multi-engine Searchs - Metacrawler

Exercise 6. Go to and search for endangered species again

Multi-engine tools do not maintain their own databases, but conduct parallel searchs of major search engines, including Lycos, Infoseek, WebCrawler, Excite, AltaVista, and Yahoo. Metacrawler ranks the results by combining the relevance assigned by each server.
  Let your browser do the work

Exercise 7. Exploit a little known trick of both Netscape and Internet Explorer

Go up to the Netsite address bar at the rop of your browser window and type a plus sign and your keywords. The icon will change to "Go To" and the browser will submit your query to one of it's favorite search engines (mostly Excite, AltaVista and Lycos) and then display the results. It's best if this is a sharply focused search, such as +Tetrahymena thermophila.

  Specialized Sites

Exercise 7. Go to

Specialized sites are produced by a variety of businesses, hobbyists or organizations. They can be the most interesting and content-rich on the net, but the question is how long they will be maintained. By all means, explore and bookmark them though.


"Taming the Wild Web" - Searching Exercises - © 1998 - E. Barbara Meyer - EdTech Center - School of Life Sciences - University of Illinois - Urbana, IL USA -

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