Internet is a terrific resource containing billions of web pages dedicated to thousands of topics. Since the amount of information available on the Internet is so vast and mind baffling you may feel lost.
Your expectations from "The Information Superhighway" will crash if you proceed with the general view that exaggerates the ease of Internet usage. What is required is a moderate, balanced approach keeping one's head on shoulders. Approaching the net should be similar to any other research endeavor ie by adopting a formal strategy to maximize results. "Motivation" is the key word here. If you do not have a serious research goal, you cannot dig far.
To make the search a more meaningful exercise and profitable too, you should know where to search and how to search. Be clear about what you are looking for? Be specific in the identification and use of keywords. Being an advanced Internet researcher, you should always use the advanced services when available on a search engine or a directory or a look-up. Have a list of Boolean search strings ready before proceeding on for advanced search in a search engine. For preparing Boolean expressions the following may be used as required:
"AND" is used to tell the search engine to find both terms on the same page.
"OR" is used to find one term or the other. Looking for one term is very useful when the same term may appear in two different ways.
"NOT" tells the search engine to look for web pages with the first term but not the second.
"NEAR" instructs the search engine, only to return the web pages in which the terms are near each other.
Categories of Search Tools available are:
Search Engines – They use keywords or phrases to search the Internet. Many of them allow you to enter questions rather than simply a few search terms. Most search engines have catalogs that sort a limited number of sites on the topic. Some frequently used search engines are:
- Alta Vista
- MSN Search
- Northern Light
- Web Crawler
Meta Search Engines – They quickly and superficially search several individual search engines at once and return results compiled into a convenient format. They only catch about 10% of search results in any of the search engines they visit. Some examples of Meta S.Es are:
- Ask Jeeves
- Meta Crawler
Subject Directories – They are the collection of web sites picked by editors (sometimes experts in a subject) and organized into hierarchical subject categories. They are often carefully evaluated and kept up to date. Some widely used directories are:
- Invisible Web
Search engines are wonderful but the problem is that none of them has indexed even half of the Internet. Each search engine indexes the web differently, searches the web differently and thus has very different results. This means if you enter a search into Altavista and get zero results, this may not be the case if you go to Northernlight or Google. A good web researcher must search a few search engines before exhausting the search.
What is MUST before setting out for search is a glance at the FAQs. As each search engine is different from each other, it is essential to set your doubts at rest before you proceed.
X-raying the websites – At times you will not be allowed to access a particular page on the website as it may not be linked with any of the pages on that URL. A good researcher knows that just because you are not allowed access to a page, does not mean you can't still get in. If you can't get in from front door of the website, then try the back door of the server by using the advanced function on a search engine. Even if a page is not linked, the search engines might have indexed it. All you need to do is go to the advanced search function on Altavista and type in host: XYZ.com AND the words you expect to find on your page.
Flip Searching – Flipping is a technique in which you look for pages containing links to specified URLs. Use linkdomain: ABC.com to tell the search engine to locate all the pages that are linked to "ABC URL".
Every great researcher should have an organized library of resources. Whether this comes in the form of organized bookmarks and favorites or a notebook, it is imperative to track your research.
The Internet is like an ever-changing medium. What worked yesterday, may not work today. Therefore, a good researcher should always have "Ever Onwards" as the motto and should not surrender the search easily. With over billions of pages on the Internet you can turn all odds in your favor and succeed in finding what you are looking for.