To put it in its simplest terms, a CSE will make a Google Search like any other, but then filters out all results except from sources that you, the developer, specify. I tried this early on for sources in Irish history, but there were so few good sources, the results were too constricted. I would get eight or 10 hits on a topic. In 2010, I tried it again while working at the New York Law School. There are a great number of excellent free sites in the legal area, and my CSE soon approached 80 qualified entries. When we librarians made a search, the results came up in less than a second, and only included sites that we specifically included. This caused a minor sensation at a librarians’ meeting, and we soon had it up for our students with a new name—DRAGNET. It went on to win the library an award from the American Association of Law Libraries.
To give a real-world example of what CSE did for New York Law School, I tried searching the term “torts” and got a large number of hits—all from sources that the library had specified. If I try the same search in regular Google, I get millions more hits. Just for fun, I added the term “recipes” and found that the regular Google search included hundreds of thousands of pages about a pastry as well as the legal term. When used in the right way, CSE is an extremely useful tool.
DRAGNET, an award-winning CSE application that searches legal sources
The inner workings of a CSE account showing the assignment of sources to be searched