Get Your Search On: 40 of the Best Search Engines for Students and How to Use Them


Once upon a time, the writers at Learn U were college students who spent a great many hours slaving away over research papers, projects and homework. Countless minutes were spent entering queries, questions and keywords into search engines as the hunt for answers kept us chained to our desks. Ok, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you catch our drift! We wish there were more search engines in those days, but our loss is your gain as we made it our mission to find out what’s out there for college students now!

Gone are the days of ineffective, time sucking internet searching! Say “hello” to new ways to research, learn, find pictures and watch videos! We’ve got all the goods for you today in this epic informational, so stop what you’re doing and prepare to have your world wide web rocked!

How Does a Search Engine Work?

There’s no easy explanation here as search engines are complex beings with a ton of working parts. It makes sense that they are so complicated when you think about all of the search queries typed in at any given moment and then add to that the millions of pages that are then combed through to find the best answer.

Most search engines go through the same process when searches are conducted and follow super detailed processes to retrieve top notch results. The algorithms that are working hard behind the scenes are beasts unto themselves and may offer up differing results depending on the search engine used.

Here are the three basic things that occur when search engines are at work:

  1. Internet user enters desired inquiry into the search engine’s search bar.
  2. The search engine’s software gets to work and starts sorting through the millions of pages residing within its database in an attempt to find the best fit for the original inquiry.
  3. Once all the action takes place behind the scenes, all relevant results are generated for the searcher and presented. Results are listed in order with the most relevant first.

How To Pick a Search Engine

Not all search engines are created equal and some may be more effective for getting the answers to your questions. So, how the heck do you figure out which one is right for the job? The answer to this actually depends on the question you intend to ask. Why? Well, some search engines are better at producing results for one query whereas a different one may not quite give you what you’re looking for. Got it? Good!

Here are some of the things to consider when trying to pick the right search engine for the task at hand:

  • Can keywords be used to ask the question? If so, try big databases like Google or Yahoo for quick searches with first page results.
  • Do you need a specific question answered, but you don’t feel like doing a ton of research to find the answer? You can try search engines that are able to provide actual answers to questions that are surprisingly factual, like Answers.com and Ask Jeeves.
  • Do you want to search a few search engines at once rather than just one? These are called meta search engines and they useful search tools that will pull in results from many other search engines and widen the net of answered received as a result. Search.com is a commonly used meta search engine used for general purposes/

Try some of the search engines below for searches pertaining to academic, media or social topics. There aren’t any major secrets to retrieving results for queries of that nature and knowing where to search is more than half the battle.

How To Become a Better Search Engine Sleuth

A very important element to using search engines is knowing how to get the most out of your search and the way to do this is by knowing as many tricks of the trade as possible. Knowing how to search effectively will also cut down on the amount of time spent chained to your computer and we all know that the demands of college keep you on a tightly timed leash. Lucky for you, we want you to become an internet pro with all the skills necessary to research to your fullest potential and as quickly as possible.

So, here are some tips and tricks to ramp up your search engine and get its motor running:

  • Be as specific as possible if you don’t want thousands of results in return. The more specific and unique your query is the better and more relevant your results will be.
  • Minus operator reporting for duty! Using a minus (-) symbol when searching can weed out unwanted results that may come your way when your query has more than one meaning. Using the minus operator will tell the search engine that you don’t want certain things included in the final collection of results returned to you.
  • Quotation marks are your friend. Use quotations in your search if you want to receive results containing those exact words and nothing else. This is a great way to really zoom in on your intended results and cuts down on the amount of extra pages you get back.
  • Let go of common words and/or punctuation…most of the time. You can save yourself a nanosecond or two by omitting common words (a and the) when entering a query. These words and punctuation are usually ignored and not necessary when searching. However, there are a few exceptions when you will want to keep those guys in, such as when the common word is significant to what you’re searching. Think of it this way – when you type in “birds” and get a ton of results for different bird species, but you really wanted to read about the making of the Hitchcock movie. This is where tossing in that common word is going to come in handy, so here you would type in “The Birds” and in return garner the results desired.
  • Forget the caps. All forms of capitalization are created equal, both upper and lowercase. Search engines don’t commonly differentiate between one or the other, so no need to spend any time thinking about it.
  • Suffixes be gone! You’ll likely get better results with just the base word since it’s a better way to cover the bases and make sure that there aren’t any relevant pages left out.
  • Use other tools to help optimize your search results. You can use a variety of things to influence the results you get back and make the most out of your time. Try these to customize your searches: plus operator (+), tide operator (~), wildcard operators (*) and OR operator (|).

Remember, not all search engines are created equal and some of these tricks may not work as a result. It sure can’t hurt to give them a try, though.

40 Best Search Engines for College Students

By now we have probably bored you to tears with all of our search engine talk, but it’s time to wake up and get what you came here for! These are the bees knees of the search engine world in our opinion and we’re pretty excited to share them with you. We hope you’re prepared to have your world rocked and for your days of researching all of those college papers to be made easier.

Academic Search Engines

Here’s a list of some academic search engines that will help you tackle some of the tougher aspects of your college coursework!

  • Librarians’ Internet Index – Don’t let the name of this search engine fool you! It may have been created by librarians, but it is a valuable resource to students in need of some top notch information too. There are currently well over 20,000 pages to search on a wide variety of topics.
  • Google Scholar – This is a super cool app that helps students search for papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles that have all been previously reviewed by their peers. Students can use Google Scholar to search academic publishers, professional societies, preprint facilities, universities and various other academic organizations.
  • iSEEK – Students as well as teachers have trusted iSEEK for years and count on it as a research must have. It is easy to use and will pull the best results for your question or search topic by combing through trusted resources ranging from universities to non-commercial sites.
  • OJOSE – If you’re a science major and need to find something out, check out the Online Journal Search Engine (OJOSE) for the answer! This search engine can help students find nearly anything science related as long as it’s within the 60+ databases available to search.
  • DMOZ – Anything from art to sports can be searched for using DMOZ. All of the content available was hand reviewed and picked by a community of volunteers helping to create one of the largest directories on the internet.
  • Yahoo Directory – Here is a large directory of topics available for students to search with an endless amount of information available at their fingertips.
  • Internet Archive – Here we have a digital library of sorts that contains a plethora of websites and resources in many other mediums. All resources may be accessed for free by anyone and at any time.
  • SweetSearch – There are 35,000 websites combed through for search results with each one carefully selected and reviewed by librarians, teachers and SweetSearch’s own researchers.
  • Google Book Search – With Google Book Search students have the awesome ability to take a gander at thousands of books from different genres, both past and present. Once the book searched for is found, students can then click through pages, read reviews and order a copy of their own.
  • Google Custom Search Engine – This is the last Google search engine we’ll talk about, we promise! This one is pretty cool though and worthy of a spot on our list as it functions a bit differently than the others we’re discussing. Google Custom Search Engine is made for a more customized type of search and will help students effectively search specific websites and pages. It’s an efficient way to narrow down the search pool without having to do all the leg work yourself.
  • Educational Resources Information Center – There are over 1.3 million articles and bits of online material searched when students type a query into the Educational Resources Information Center. This search engine has information sent in by the U.S. Department of Education and receives upwards of eight million queries each month! Students can run searches for nearly anything education related like academic journal articles, books, research papers, conference paper, various reports and much more.
  • Federal Resources for Academic Excellence – The Federal Resources for Academic Excellence (FREE) website is jam packed with resources from over 1,500 resources that get a thumbs up from the federal government. Topics available and ready to search include: health, math, history and art.
  • Virtual Learning Resources Center – The Virtual Learning Resources Center (VLRC) has thousands of websites in its index and readily available to search. VLRC tries to always keep their 10,000+ pages as up to date as possible to ensure that students are receiving the most accurate information.
  • American Memory – Here is a prime search engine for history majors to put to use! American Memory serves as a portal to the information waiting to be tapped into in the Library of Congress’s database. Students can search from over nine million images, maps, sound/video recordings and various documents and articles about the history of the United States.
  • Noodle Tools – Noodle Tools offers up the goods to students in need of some assistance with papers or projects. There are many different ways to search and even more answers headed your way with the help of a citation generator and writing references.
  • Academic Index – Yet another academic search engine that gathers information from third party websites that have been viewed and approved by educator and librarians.
  • BASE – It’s all about the BASE, no treble with this search engine! It’s considered to be one of the biggest and best of its kind in the academic forum and is operated by Bielefeld University Library.

Meta Search Engines

Meta search engines pull information from all around the internet based upon the query entered using a third party system and sends it back to the searcher with the best results possible.

  • Clusty – The creators of Clusty found that a more effective way to search the internet is by clustering results rather than pilling them all together. Some search cluster options are: web, news, blogs, shopping, images and more.
  • Dogpile – Head on over to Dogpile when you want to see what the best results are from all of the top search engines on the web. Bonus points for the site owners who contribute a portion of their earnings to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
  • Yippy – Yippy is somewhat similar to Clusty in its way of delivering search results in clusters. The intent behind this delivery method is to help students get the answers needed as quickly as possible.
  • MetaCrawler – Images, news, videos and personal contact information can be find within a few clicks with MetaCrawler. This search engine uses Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask and other engines to compile information.
  • Mamma – Some call Mamma, the “mother of all search engines” because it can perform a monster meta search for you and it allows you to search specific sites or categories to fine tune the results tossed your way.
  • Info.com – Here is a site that uses the most popular search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing and About to present the best results. There are helpful filtering options too for students interested in narrowing their searches down even further.
  • MsFreckles – MsFreckles is a cool search engine and there’s no denying it. There are so many different ways, places and countries to search. The ways to use this site are endless and we’re not ashamed to admit that many hours were spent searching various topics just for fun.
  • Ixquick – If you’re in the market to search the internet efficiently and privately, Ixquick is the place to do so. More engines are searched in a single query than other search engines and the results are evidence that it works.
  • Carrot2 – Here’s another search engine for those organized students out there. Carrot2 puts everything into a nice little package according to the topics searched. It’s a nice way to keep thinks streamlined and avoid extra time weeding through unneeded results.
  • Fefoo – Fefoo isn’t really a search engine. It’s actually an app that helps you search more effectively and works with you from the beginning of your search to the end.
  • DuckDuckGo – If you need an answer and you want it instantly, DuckDuckGo is the place to start. It’s easy to use and results come through in a flash.

Media Search Engines

Media search engines are super helpful when doing research or projects when images and video may be used as a tool to enhance what’s being presented.

  • WorldCat – WorldCat allows students to search several libraries all at once and locates what you are looking for in your neck of the woods. Music, videos and audiobooks can be searched for using this media search engine.
  • Radio-Locator – Possibly one of the largest radio station search engines available with over 10,000 radio station websites and upwards of 2,500 audio streams readily available to search.
  • Blinkx – There are tons of videos available to search through on the Blinkx search engine. All it takes is a search by keyword or category to pull up some of the 32 million hours of video that is available.
  • Pixsy – Here is a media search engine for the most visual of students as it will help you locate videos and photos from sites like Flickr, YouTube and iStock to name a few. You’ll be taken to the content’s source page and have a shortcut to finding media in the future.
  • Retrievr – Possibly one of the more unique media search engines out there, Retrievr makes it easy to upload an image whether it’s a picture or a picture of a picture and then sends it over to Flickr to snag any images that match before zipping all of the results back to you.
  • Picsearch – With Picsearch, students can search through a database of over 3,000,000,000 photos with minimal effort and maximum results.
  • Exalead – There are two search engine options available through Exalead currently and both are super fast with great results. You can use Exalead if you need to do a web search to locate a website, document or pdf file or the image search option is great to look for pictures, drawings and icons too.
  • Blekko – Blekko is the search engine for you if you like your search results organized after they have been pulled from a wide net of online sources.
  • RedZ – Image searches are made easy with RedZ as it pulls in search from a variety of databases and web resources.

Social Search Engines

Social search engines will enable you to take a look for people, see what they’re up to and see if anything of interest pertains to your studies or research.

  • Wink – Wink makes it possible to search for nearly anyone and find their contact information along with any websites they are connected with.
  • SocialMention – This social search engine makes it possible to search blogs, comments, events, news and more for the most recent information.
  • Pipl – Pipl offers up the goods on those students may be interested in learning personal information about. Searches can be conducted to find to out contact information, social media information, court records and public records.

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