Being able to tease out a pressing question with a reference librarian can be a valuable experience. However, sometimes you might be struck with questions in the middle of the night, on holidays, or just prefer to try to find your own answers.  In this moment, many of us turn on the computer and hold our breath as we enter a string of words into Google and wait for the 34,578 responses to sort through.

There is a search engine alternative called a MetaSearch Engine. These search engines comb a number of search engines simultaneously and help to organize the links for more effective results. Here are a few to give a try:

Clusty retrieves results from Ask, Open Directory, and Gigablast. To see which particular search engines returned results for your query, click on the “Details” link at the top of the search results list. Clusty will generate broad subject areas (“clusters”) related to your search term.  You can choose links only within your topic of interest or do another search in your narrowed cluster.

SurfWax searches MSN, AlltheWeb, and Yahoo!. This engine allows you to see “snapshots” of the results list to determine if they are relevant before going to the site. A really geeky feature is the Results Stats link at the top of the page and you will see exactly how SurfWax retrieved those results:

Dogpile and MetaCrawler search Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Ask. Similar to Google, you can choose to do a general search, an image search, or a video search, as well as yellow and white page searches.  They also offer an ‘Are you looking for’ column on the right side of the search with related search terms.

~Jess Weitz