Selecting the Proper Web Database
No two web databases are alike, as you have seen throughout this tutorial.
They differ in the following aspects:
- Size of database
- Small databases are usually attached to pick lists
- Medium-sized databases will usually have pages that the larger ones
- Larger databases are more difficult to search accurately
- Type of pages indexed
- All pages - Good for most searched
- Popular pages - These are useful for finding pages on "hot"
- Quality control - Nice for academic work or creation of resources for
- Method of indexing
- Full-text - Good for specific-term searching
- Human - Works in with quality control and pick lists
- User access to the database
- Pick Lists - A good place to start
- Search Engines - Much more powerful and much larger selection of pages
- Search Engine capabilities
- Boolean - Many engines do not allow Boolean searching
- Pseudo-Boolean - Most engines do allow this "natural language"
method of searching
- Phrases - The most powerful way to find what you are looking for
- Term Weighting - When usable, this can help your ranked output be more
- Truncation - Most allow some form of truncation, but not all
- Presentation of Results
- Relevance information - some databases tell you the number of terms
matched and give you a relevance score for each document
- Abstract - The blurb you get about the page can be the address up to
a human written, multi-sentence abstract about the page.
- Continuing the search - Some databases make it easy to "find more
like this one".
As you can see, there are many variables in a web database, and different
types of searches demand different tyeps of web databases. You can't use
the same database for all of your searching just like you can't use the
same reference book for all of your questions. You need to select the proper
tool for your searches - and that is where AskScott comes into play.
The role of AskScott in web searching
AskScott has three features that make it a useful tool to you in your searching.
- You can use the interactive dialog to select the proper web database depending
on your topic
- Once you navigate to a page, AskScott provides you with a very handy reminder
of what features that search engine has and how you use them, along with
the place to type your query where possible. (You will find that as you
use more search engines, you will really appreciate this feature of AskScott).
- As search engines change, grow, and get better or worse, AskScott will
change to reflect this. If a new database appears on the scene or the technique
for using a database changes, that will be changed in AskScott. So, AskScott
will save you time.
AskScott is a unique tool, and one that plays an important role -
the role of a librarian in helping you use the proper reference tool for
your search request.
Places to learn more
If you are interested in an individual search engine, look for the online help
attached to that search engine. That is a good way to learn the differences
- but take any comparisons listed there with a grain of salt, as each engine
will give you reasons why their database/search engine is superior. However,
they don't talk about the disadvantages.
Some of the best tools for learning more about the Web search tools are Danny
Sullivan's Search Engine Watch
and Greg Notess's Search Engine
I hope this search tutorial was helpful to you, and will help you in not only
your web searching, but searching at your local library. If you felt this was
helpful or you'd like to use this in a classroom setting, please drop
me a note - I'd really appreciate any feedback you have to give on this
If you're still having trouble, some more searching
examples are provided to help you go from a search request to the search
You can also go back to the tutorial start page
or go directly to AskScott!
All contents of this page are copyright 1996, 2002 by Scott Nicholson.