Google Scholar still exists

The best search engines

Every search engine has strengths and weaknesses and each is particularly well suited to a specific question. In the fourth and last part of our search engine tutorial, we concentrate on the best and most popular search services and tell you where you can find more. The basics are explained to you on the page How do I find the right search engine.


search engines

General search engines are especially good when you're looking for facts or more up-to-date information. Despite a few minor weaknesses, Google is the clear number 1 among search engines. According to its own statement, Google already knew over 1 billion Internet addresses in 2008 (source). This number is likely to have multiplied by now. However, not every URL is included in the index, because there are countless pages without content or pages with identical content that are filtered out by Google from the outset. The actual index size is therefore currently estimated at a few hundred billion Internet pages. In terms of topicality - hits from the short message service Twitter are updated almost every second and changes to news websites, weblogs or forums are often in the index after a few minutes - and no other search engine can keep up with the many other search functions and services. Google's search engine market share in Germany is over 90% (source).

If you don't want to forego the quality of the Google index but don't want to send your data to Google, you can use the search engine Startpage, which enables an "anonymous" search in the Google index. The websites themselves that appear in the hit list can also be opened "anonymously".

Anyone looking for an alternative (in terms of content) to the quasi-monopoly Google is best off with Microsoft's search engine Bing or DuckDuckGo. These search engines are also comprehensive, offer many search functions and services and sometimes find more or more precise hits than Google. DuckDuckGo can also - like Startpage - convince when it comes to data protection (no storage of the IP address).

In addition to these search services, there are hundreds of other general search engines that cannot compete qualitatively with the search engines mentioned. It only makes sense to use it if you attach particular importance to security and data protection.

Special search engines

Special search engines are particularly suitable if you only want to search a certain area of ​​the Internet, e.g. only scientific websites. This is exactly what the search services Google Scholar and our own search engine BASE have specialized in. You can find all kinds of academic texts in Google Scholar. Around 160 million titles are listed (as of 2015, source). About 50% of the titles in Google Scholar are freely accessible (Open Access). If you find a title in Google Scholar that is not freely accessible, but which the Bielefeld University Library has licensed, you will receive a special link (Volltext @ Bielefeld University Library) that members of Bielefeld University can access. Our own scientific search engine BASE enables searches in quality-checked sources, which scientific documents are usually freely available. Here you will find over 150 million titles from over 7000 sources (list of sources).

Another interesting special search engine is Google News for searching for the latest news from daily and weekly newspapers.

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine makes it possible to find old versions of a website. This is particularly useful if the content of the website has been deleted in the meantime or is subject to a charge. However, you must know the address (URL) of the website from which you are looking for an old version.

Wolfram Alpha, the "computational knowledge engine", is pursuing an interesting approach. For every search query (which should be made in English), instead of a hit list, directly matching formulas or statistics, which come from various sources, are clearly displayed graphically on one page.

Finding special search engines on a particular topic is not always easy, as there are very many of them and no central search engine directory exists. We show you how you can find special search engines in the link collections area.

Metasearch engines

Meta search engines enable simultaneous searches in many different search services. So they are the best choice if you want to find as much as possible at once. But you often have to accept limitations in search functions and also in the hit quality.

Meta search engines like Yippy or Carrot2 go a special way. The documents found are not displayed in a long, unsorted hit list - as is usually the case - but automatically sorted according to subject areas, the so-called "clusters" or "clouds" (example search for Metroplis in Yippy and in Carrot2). This will make it easier for you to find information on the topic that interests you. With Yippy, Google is not searched, but the results appear more complete than with Carrot2, which can also be used to search Google.

eTools.ch also searches the major search engines Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing and offers - in addition to the normal hit list - also a restriction to one topic.

Metager, a service of the German SUMA-EV in cooperation with Leibniz Universität Hannover, is especially suitable for German-language documents. Here, too, data protection is very important and user data is not saved.

Directories and collections of links

Directories and collections of links are particularly suitable if you want to get an overview of a topic or if you are looking for (editorially) selected information on a topic. Directories flourished in the early days of the WWW at the end of the 1990s, but now they hardly play a role and have for the most part even been discontinued (prominent examples are Yahoo and the "Open Directory Project").

A contemporary form of link collection are so-called "social bookmarking" services such as Diigo. Every registered user can save their bookmarks here, add tags (keywords) and also comment on them. The advantage is that you can access your bookmarks regardless of the device. In this way, a huge and highly topical collection of links is created that is not maintained or controlled by any editorial team. Users can network with one another and thus build up the link collection together. We have also stored all the links from our search engine tutorial, e.g. at Diigo (the link can be found in the top right). If you use such a service, always make sure that you can export saved bookmarks again, because the operators also close such commercial services (such as "Delicious", which was very popular in the early 2010s).

Some libraries also offer small internet directories, especially for scientific websites. An example of this are, for example, our link collections in the area of ​​specialist information.

If you are looking for a list of (special) search engines, it is advisable to take a look at the corresponding section in Wikipedia. As an alternative, it is recommended to search for specialized search engines in a general search engine such as Google. Special search engines can be found here by adding the keyword to a term for which you are looking for a special search engine search engine or "search engine" (with quotation marks for the phrase search), e.g. science search engine or movie "search engine".

reference books

As an alternative to search services, it is advisable to look directly into a reference work, especially when searching for facts, e.g. the life data of a person. The best known and most extensive reference work worldwide is Wikipedia. Here you can often find helpful information on many terms. Useful articles are characterized by the fact that at the end there is a list with further sources and websites on this topic. Particularly good articles are also marked as "Excellent", articles with above-average quality as "Worth reading". The articles can usually be edited by any user. There is a discussion page for each article, on which errors, inconsistencies or additional information are pointed out, and a version history, which can be used to reconstruct all changes to the article. Since no reference work in the world is completely error-free, it is worth taking a look at the Encyclopedia Britannica in addition to Wikipedia, the articles of which are freely accessible as in Wikipedia and some can also be edited.

Search engine tutorial summarized

If you have worked through our search engine tutorial step by step, you have now come to the end. You have received an overview of which search services are available, how you can get targeted good search results, how you can check the quality of the sources found and how you can also get information that cannot be found in Google.

You can also access the tutorial in compact form as a PDF.