Part 1: Start Your Research Process

13 Different Search Tools for Different Sources

In the previous chapter, I made the claim that the search tool you use to find sources plays just as much a role in your research process as your sources do. Why do you think that is?

If I search in a search tool like Netflix, am I going to find scholarly articles? That’s an easy answer: NO! Netflix is a collection of streaming movies and TV shows, so when I search that tool I can only find what’s available in the collection. The same goes for any other search tool I use in my research process, my results are limited by the collection of sources available in the tool. That means the search tool I select is directly related to the types of sources I’m going to find.

You might think, well that’s easy, I’ll just search Google then because Google has everything! Of course, it’s not that easy! For one, Google does not actually search everything that exists online. When you search Google, you’re searching approximately¬†35 trillion sites across the Internet worldwide. While 35 trillion is such a large number it’s hard to even fathom, that actually represents only an estimated 4 percent of the information that exists on the Internet, meaning you’re barely scratching the surface of what’s out there.

The other issue with Google is search results contain all kinds of different source types. In one search, you’ll get websites, news articles, pictures, maps, videos, government sites, and much, much more. We’ve already talked about being strategic in our research by creating a plan of what sources we want to address our information need. Why search a tool that gives you everything when you can search a more specialized tool that gives you only the source types you need.

When I want to read newspaper articles, I’ll go to a search tool that only searches newspapers. When I want a scholarly article, I’ll go to a search tool that only searches scholarly journals. And, when I’m being particularly fancy about my research, when I want a scholarly article focused on libraries, I’ll go to a search tool that only searches scholarly library journals. This gives me highly specialized results relevant to my information need. I don’t get the billions of results I would in Google, but that’s great because that means I have less to sort through, and I’m more efficient at researching!

Just like we want to look for different source types based on our information need, we want to search different search tools based on our source type need. This is all part of our research plan as we become strategic researchers. We’ll talk more about how to select search tools based on the source types we’re looking for to address our information need in the next part of this textbook.



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Introduction to Finding Information by Kirsten Hostetler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.