Search engines

A search engine is a software index of the content of the World Wide Web.

When you enter terms (keywords) into the search box, all matching entries within the index are shown. This often leads to thousands of results. By being selective about your keywords, you can narrow down the search to find the most relevant data. Most search engines also have filters. A filter will allow you to specify the type of result you are looking for. For example,  images, country, video, etc.

Some search engines specialise in indexing a certain type of content. ‘Google Scholar’ indexes academic literature and research. Mayflower indexes images and art. There are many popular search engines available, and Google has become one of the most prominent. The phrase ‘Google it!’ has become synonymous with ‘ look it up’.

The Federation University Library has a search engine built specially for retrieving academic resources.

Experiment with search engines, and if all else fails, ask our experts.

Google searches

When you make a search enquiry to Google, the page(s) of answers you receive include a number of advertisements. You can identify them by the word ‘Ad‘ with the entry. You may also see items for sale and businesses that may be relevant to your search – they are selected by Google.

Most relevant to tertiary students is the Google Scholar search engine, which returns more academic resources than the standard Google engine.

Read search tips by Google.


The public encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, can be a great source of ideas and general understanding. HOWEVER, because these pages can be edited by any person who registers themselves, the data is bot considered reliable in an academic sense. Therefore, material on Wikipedia needs to be further researched to clarify and substantiate the information.

Wikipedia should not appear as a reference in your academic work.

The better articles on Wikipedia will have a reference list at the bottom. But an even better place to start looking for original sources on your topic is your course material in Moodle.

Advanced searches

An advanced search interface is more intuitive to use than regular Google, and will give you more relevant sources. Simply type “Advanced Search” into a search box, then select the result “Google Advanced Search” 


This is a great place to learn how to use Boolean search criteria.

To the right of each search concept is an explanation of how the same result can be obtained when using the basic search box within Google.