Skills and Strategies for Web Researching
Before the Internet was invented, academic research was largely restricted to library books, journals, or personal accounts. Imagine how much time it would have taken to research a simple topic
without the Internet! We are fortunate today to have such tremendous resources at our fingertips, but it is important to know how to use it correctly. Since it is so easy to post information
online, you can find all types of information on the web. The key is in knowing where to look for reliable resources, and weeding out good content from bad. For example, suppose you want to
research the Milky Way for a project. NASA would be an excellent place to start. Bobís Space Blog, on the other hand, might offer Bobís personal opinions of aliens and space conspiracies. Letís
find out more on where and how to search online.
Use a Search Engine
Searching for topics through a search engine is the basic way in which most of us find information online. Although search engines try to give the most relevant results, they are not always
entirely accurate. One way to find a closer match for your subject is to put the phrase in quotes. For example, run a search for ìMilky Way photo galleryî to find pages that list exactly that
phrase. Remember to avoid websites that are full of spam or those that contain lots of flashy advertising. A good rule of thumb is to use websites that are academic, governmental, or non-profit.
To do this, you might run a search for: ìMilky Way photo galleryî site:.gov. This will ensure that the search engine only delivers results from trustworthy government websites. Instead of only
searching with keywords or key phrases, another technique is to use natural language. An example is, ìHow big is the Milky Way?î Search engines can analyze the part of this sentence and provide
results that with information on the size of the Milky Way, as well as pages where other users have asked and answered similar questions.
Search with Advanced Search Commands and Strategies
There are a few commands that can help to refine the search results that you request. The most common are known as Boolean operators
; they consist of the words ìandî, ìorî, and ìnotî.
Suppose you want to find pages that discuss the Milky Way and space travel. You would type in ìMilky Way AND space travelî. Another way to do this is by using plus signs, so that it would be
ì+Milky Way +space travelî. On the other hand, to find pages about either the Milky Way or space travel, you would simply type ìMilky Way OR space travelî. Finally, if you want pages about the
Milky Way that do not
mention space travel, type in ìMilky Way NOT space travelî or ìMilky Way ñspace travelî. NEAR is another type of command that can be used to locate pages where each
of the terms in the search are at least ten words in proximity.
Use Subject-Specific Catalogs and Databases
Instead of searching on the Internet in general, it can also be more helpful to search in very specific online publications. A database is a group of records that are formatted in the same way.
Through a database, users can search for records of articles that exist in a number of newspapers, journals, and other such publications. There are also databases and catalogs sorted by certain
subjects. For example, you might run a search in astronomy and space science databases for your Milky Way project. Once the results are generated, the database might offer to display the full
article online. Alternatively, it might give information on where to find the article. In the latter case, it might list the name of a journal, along with the edition number and page number.
Search Through the Invisible Web
When you run a general search online, the search engine is normally not really searching through all
the pages on the Internet. There is a large portion of websites that are hidden from
most search engines. This section of the web is known as the invisible web
. Invisible web resources typically include subscription databases, certain types of multimedia, and other
specialized sites. To access these resources, users have to search through databases, or special search engines designed to look through the invisible web.
Author: Michael Leng