Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Jun 13, 2023     Views: 26996

Remember that many open websites are not scholarly

Ready to search?  Read below for the librarians' best open web search tips.


1. Take a few minutes to identify the best keywords This may seem too simple a step to bother with, but it's a common stumbling block for many researchers.

  • Narrow keywords often work best, especially when your searches are bringing you too many irrelevant sites.
  • Sometimes, though, you'll need to broaden your search to find a more general (but related) website that you can then search within for your more specific topic

2. Don't get stuck on Google (or any other single search engine).  Here are the librarians' favorite web search spots:

  • Use library's subject pages. Each pages includes a "websites" section, and each link was chosen by a librarian, so you can feel confident that they're trustworthy.  (Note that you may need to click a website, then search within it for a page that fits your topic.)
  • Browse the library's open access research guide.  It compiles links to all of the best free scholarly and educational sites.
  • Search Google smarter.  Use the "advanced search" to limit your results to .edu, .gov or .org domains, which tend to be more authoritative than .com sites.  Google Scholar is another fantastic place to do research (and you can set it up to show you links from our library!).
  • Target government information by topic at
  • Look for discipline-specific search engines.  We all love Google, but you can find search engines that target education (like iSeek) or science (like, just to name a couple.  Try googling "business search engine" (substitute the discipline that pertains to your topic, if it isn't business) and explore the results.
  • Seek out professional organizations or associations related to your research topic. For example, if your topic is related to online learning, search for online learning association or online learning organization.  You should see several to choose from -- click one, then search within it for your more specific keywords.
  • If you come across a Wikipedia article for your topic, take a look at its references (scroll down to the bottom).  Wikipedia, by itself, is not a good source to cite in a college-level assignment, but its articles will often link you to better sites or pages. 

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