Search engine help

I’ve been asked to research the redevelopment of a university search engine. The existing search engine looks for students and how much funding they have through by way of a grant.

The existing search engine is an expert system that has about 40 fields. Users typically only need 4 or 5 fields but these can vary depending on the task.

I’m approaching this by building a basic prototype which I’ll use to drive out deeper needs from users.

But my question is this: is there any specific guidelines or evidence that would help me build a good search engine? What things should I be looking to build? What features?

It looks like I need to abandon the old static search engine (40+ fields) and move to something dynamic that the user can customise but I’d welcome your thoughts

To answer my own question:

Make it customiseable. We don’t know which of the 40 fields users need, yet, but they only need a subset. Do more research to see if we can reduce everything down to a keyword field plus couple others.

A search engine doesn’t need 40 fields. As you said, you should provide options for the users to customize as per their needs. Since it is for the university purpose, you will have a general idea about the way that the students may use the search engine. You have to consider every student and what is useful for the students. Students are aware of what is valuable to them. You have to get suggestions from the students. That would work better, I think.