Refining your Internet searches

When regular search engines don't do the trick, try these more focused alternatives

To search and explore best describes the mission of most cybernauts. When it comes to probing for general information on any subject, the usual suspects will do-Yahoo, Infoseek, AltaVista, Lycos and the like. But if you want to find detailed information about a particular subject area, you’ll want to use specialized search engines.

Specialized search engines vary widely in size, scope and the type of materials they encompass. They cover a cadre of subjects, including employment, computers, family life, medicine, education, news, sports, personal finance and travel.

For example, Medline, now available free as PubMed (http://pubs.acs.org) is a large search engine developed by the National Library of Medicine, which contains the abstracts of articles of thousands of medical journals worldwide dating back several decades. Then there’s the Bible Browser (www.biblebrowser.com), a search engine that indexes several versions of the Holy Bible. With some search engines, such as Northernlight (www.northernlight.com), you can execute custom searches and create folders by subject type, source and language.

Granted there is a thin line separating a specialized search engine from a large, searchable Website. The defining factors are just how much information the site contains on one subject, how specific that information is and how often it is updated and supplemented.

Say you’re looking for a job, a car, a restaurant or anything else that is specific to your needs. The best place to go is a specialized search engine that can match your personal requirements to the data it contains. In your quest for that perfect job, you might check out ZDNet (www.zdnet.com). Simply key in your desired job title, job description, salary, your zip code and the maximum number of miles you’re willing to travel. In a matter of seconds, ZDNet will go through all of its listings to find those jobs that comply with your requirements.

If you wanted not only to read a review of “The Blair Witch Project” but also find out the names of the cast members, total production costs and how much money the movie earned, the Internet Movie Database (http://moviedatabase.com) would give you this information in a snap.

If you know what topic you want to look up, but you’re not sure where to begin, then start with the main search engine guides:

  • 4anything (www.4anything.com) is just what its name implies. It’s a search engine for anything, with 1,000 other Web guides listed in its database.
  • InvisibleWeb.com (www.invisibleweb.com) contains over 10,000 search engines organized into 18 subject categories and hundreds of subcategories, including investments, legal, travel, sciences and reference materials.
  • The Big Hub (www.bighub.com) lists over 3,000 specialized search engines that are organized into 15 main categories and hundreds of subcategories.
  • Beaucoup (www.beaucoup.com), one of the oldest guides, lists over 2,500 specialized search engines, directories and indices that are divided into 13 subject categories and 36 subcategories. It includes many academic and general engines in the sciences and technology and politics and government categories. Some of the stronger categories are reference and education.
  • DirectSearch (www.directsearch.com) is a scholarly guide that includes over 1,000 search engines organized into
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