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Search Engines
  1. Rustam Al-Shahi
  1. MRC Clinical Training Fellow, University of Edinburgh Department of Clinical Neurosciences


If you want to find anything on the World Wide Web (WWW), you need to know about search engines. Hitherto, both Internet sceptics and ‘technophobes’ have criticised the various search engines for having the same failings as the WWW itself: that the overall quality and relevance of sites are poor. After all, what search engines retrieve for you is merely a reflection of the information available.

However, as the WWW expands and consumerism drives its improvement, search engines are also becoming better at finding the most relevant high quality information available. The challenge now is to identify the best of the profusion of search engines!

At the outset, it is important to understand the design of these utilities. They may be search engines (e.g. which scour the Internet itself for sites of relevance, directories of sites posted by webmasters and reviewed by the authors of the directory (e.g.

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