Site Search | Site Index

Site Search | Site Index

Law Library News for February 8, 1999

Linda Kawaguchi, editor

Law Library News Archive


Presidents' Day Hours

The Library will be open 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Monday, February 15. The Reference Office will be open 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The Copy Center and the East Asian Law Department will be closed.

Trivia Contest Winner

Congratulations to Susan Larrance, who is the winner of last week's contest on the Constitution!

Nonlegal Research on the Web

by Sarah Griffith, Law Librarianship Intern

You may know a lot about how to search the Web for legal information, but sometimes you need to find information that falls outside the legal arena. With the large amount of information on the Web, the trick is to retrieve exactly what you want without a lot of irrelevant hits to wade through. Here is a quick explanation of the different search tools available to the Internet searcher, and some good sites that provide broad coverage of a range of material.

The three major types of search tools on the Internet have different strengths and weaknesses:

Subject Directories

These group web pages together by topic, which allows for easy browsing. They are arranged hierarchically, so the searcher can go from broad categories down to the most narrow, without having to create his or her own search terms. Popular subject directories are:

Search Engines

These tools may be the most familiar to users. Using a search engine is like researching in Westlaw and Lexis, which use Boolean logical operators, truncation, and wildcards. Some search engines have field-specific searching as well. The user would do well to read the parameters provided with a given search engine for the best searching results. The results are ranked by relevancy, meaning that the Web pages that are closest to the search terms are listed first.

Popular search engines include:


A meta-index allows a user to search several tools either concurrently or consecutively. Meta-indexes search both subject directories and search engines. This means the user is searching many databases at once. For example, Metacrawler searches AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Infoseek, Yahoo, Thunderstone and WebCrawler. The meta-index then lists the top-ten retrievals from each search tool.

Popular meta-indexes include:

The University of Albany Libraries maintain a Web page that categorizes search engines by the different types of searches that the user can do, and provides links to all the search engines and databases the page refers to:

For a broad range of general information, with a Seattle flavor, try the Seattle Public Library Web page: Look it up! at This site has links to area codes and zip codes, information about autos, currency exchange, dictionaries, statistics, forms and the weather. There are also links to general reference desks on the Web, for further research help.