- Basic browser skills
- An inquisitive mind
To increase proficiency in finding relevant Internet resources
Searching and locating just the right information or link is the key. . . Successful searching for information on the Internet requires creativity, patience, and perseverance.
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The Internet has a huge amount of information on a large variety of topics. Finding what you want on the Internet can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Since the Internet is a work-in-progress by many people at many times, no one person or group was in charge of making resources uniform and easy to index. It is possible to systematically search for (and find) information on many specific topics, rather than finding information "by accident." Online search tools help you track down whatever it is you're looking for.
Remember that you may be accessing information thousands of miles away. So be patient—but be creative in your search strategy if you need to be.
One way to find information without doing a search on content is to think about sites likely to have information related to your topic, perhaps government or commercial sites. Word of mouth "referrals" are not to be discounted here, especially if your friends and colleagues have similar interests to yours.
A Trick: If you are looking for a well-known large company or government agency, you can sometimes go to their Web site directly by using a "standard" Web name for them. You can use the OPEN button and enter something like
where shortname is their company/agency abbreviation (examples: att, ibm, apple, uchicago, fnal, nsf), and type is the type of institution they are.
Some common types are:
- edu - educational institution
- com - commercial and/or personal site
- net - recommended for companies involved in Internet infrastructure
- gov - government agency
- org - not-for-profit organization
- mil - military
SHORT ACTIVITY: Think of a commercial company, government site, or educational institution that might have information about your topic (and that you know the abbreviation for). Try using OPEN and typing in your "educated guess" for their Web server address. (If you cannot find any sites related to your topic this way, try locating the McDonald's using this technique, just to test it out.)
If you are fortunate, someone at one of these related sites may have already made a list of links related to the topic you are interested in. So by all means, take advantage of any resource links you may find and explore them to see if they are useful to you. Add them to your bookmark list if they are.
Keep in mind though, that even if such a topic list does exist, it may not be up to date, or the author may not have searched through some major sources of information that are accessible to you. So it frequently is still worthwhile to do some digging on your own.
Another way to find information is to browse through catalogs of World Wide Web information arranged by category.
Different catalog organizations are more suited to different goals. For instance, if you are looking for information about Hispanic culture, it may be easiest to look for Spain or a Latin American country in a catalog organized by geographical location. If you are looking for product information, a commercial company index might be your best bet. For information about something in the area of chemistry or biology, a subject catalog might be the way to start.
Try to find some information on your topic using one or more of the catalogs included on these pages.
There are many programs on the Internet that let you search the Internet. There are several different kinds of programs that do this. First off, the programs may differ in whether they search the full text of Internet documents (i.e., all the words on the page) for keywords, or whether they search only document title, header, and/or description information.
Secondly, the programs may differ in how they get the information. Some programs get information by scanning lists of WWW server announcements or descriptions of servers in catalogs. These are called list-based searching programs. This method is not as "thorough" as a full-text search.
Other searching programs get their information by wandering through Internet documents, following links, and indexing keywords found. Once they find a document, they can then visit links that appear in that document, and then every link that appears in those documents, . . . and so on. (In practice, they have to stop following links at some point, but you get the idea.) These programs are referred to as Spiders and Robots and Worms.
These indices are almost always created before you do your search. So you are searching a pre-made index or database when you do your search. In other words, the searching program does not go out and search the Web in response to your search. The searching program lets you search through the information it has already gathered.
One of the things you may want to notice about a searching program is when it last gathered information from the Web. If the searching program gathered information three months ago, then you know it won't have information from pages that have been written in the last three months. It also won't have updated information from pages that have been modified in the last three months. This is actually a long time as far as Web pages are concerned!
Thirdly, programs differ in which information services they search (WWW, Gopher, . . .). Several of the searching programs now index HTTP, Gopher, and FTP resources.
Here are some of the more common search tools:
There are now some "meta" search engines that allow you to search several search engines at the same time with one query. A few common ones are listed below.
Since there are so many search tools available, which one is the best for current search needs? People develop preferences based upon the structure of the search tool and a person's search style. The following links evaluate various searching tools and give valuable hints as to the "inner workings" of the search engines. Note that which search tool is "best" can be a frequently changing target.
Click on the search program link and enter the keyword you want to search for into the given text entry field. Usually you'll have to click on a Submit or Do Search or Search button to get the search to execute. Occasionally, just pressing return will start the search.
Each of these programs was written by a different person, so (unfortunately) they all have different instructions for use. There are further instructions for each search program. (Look for the word Help somewhere on the page to find the instructions.) You will probably not need to look at the instructions if you are just doing a one-word search. But if you want to try an AND or an OR, etc. you will probably have to read the information provided. You may need to use an AND or an OR to narrow down your search at some point.
For example: A case insensitive search for "Education" will find documents that contain "Education," "education," "EDUCATION," or any other variation of the capitalization of that word. A case sensitive search for "Education" will find only the documents that contain the exact word, "Education."
Find the answers to the following questions. Document your strategy (on paper or as a word-processed document), keywords used, search engine used, and results for each question. You should use all of the search engines listed above at some point, for at least one question.
Discuss or post your strategy and answers as indicated.
Choose a topic relevant to your project idea(s) and search for information and links on that topic. Use the same keyword(s) with at least two of the search engines. Make a note of the number and the quality of the "hits" you located. Change your search strategy by changing your search keyword(s). Again note the number and the quality of the "hits" from this search.
What to post: Post comments on your searches and your preferences on search tools.
Where to post: Post your responses as indicated by your facilitator or as indicated on your course assignment sheet.
Try some of these tools at home to see which one(s) you prefer.
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