Internet Searching Basics

Pre-Search Strategies

Because the Internet has so much information, it's best to start out with a strategy for searching. Here are a few exercises you can do to help:

Brainstorm for Key Words and Synonyms

There is usually more than one way to describe a concept, more than one name for an idea. Try to think of them. In searching, if you don't find what you need using one key word, try another.
 
For example:
 
For "Employment", try "Human Resources" or "Personnel"
 
For "Movie" try "Moving Picture", "Film", "Cinema", or Motion Picture"

 

Exercise: If your topic is the death penalty, what other terms could you use in searching for information?  Possible Answers

Determine Some Broader and Narrower Topics

Most ideas can be classified within a broader topic. Each idea may have narrower, or more specific aspects as well. Take the topic of "Pottery"; "Ceramics" is a broader term, and "Porcelain" is a more narrow term relative to "pottery".

Exercise: If your topic is "civil rights" what could a broader term be? What might a more narrow aspect of civil rights be? Possible Answers

Think of Some Related Topics

What topics are related to yours? Are there other disciplines concerned with your topic? Sometimes there is more than one angle to approach your search from. For example, you might find information on domestic violence from the points of view of psychology, sociology, and criminal justice.

Exercise: If you needed to design an outfit for an actor who will portray an aristocrat during the French Revolution, what are some different disciplines that might help you?   Possible Answers

Ask, "Who Are The Experts?"

Who knows all about your topic? For any given topic or issue, there is probably at least one non-profit, trade, or governmental organization dedicated to it. For example, if your topic is "food poisoning", the federal Food and Drug Administration and the government's Centers for Disease Control might be good sources of information.

Exercise: If your topic was on growing pineapples in Hawaii, who might know all about that?   Possible Answers

Start Your Engines

Now it's time to put your brainstorming to use. In your searching:

  • use your keywords and synonyms

  • use broader and narrower terms
    • use broader terms if you don't find enough
    • use narrower terms if you find too much

  • approach your topic from different angles

  • search for experts such as organizations and agencies

There are many Internet search engines and directories to. Here are links to a few of them. Because none of these cover the entire Web, try your search in more than one search engine or directory.

 

  Yahoo!

This is an Internet directory - like a yellow pages for web sites. Links are arranged by categories, but you can also search Yahoo! for both categories and individual sites. Try it for broad, general topic searches. Note the links to other search engines at the bottom of the search results page.
  AltaVista
Try this large search engine for specific rather than general searches. Unlike other large search engines, it will sort the search results into helpful categories based on topic and type of website.

Ask Jeeves  

This search engine tries to analyze the meaning of your question, and then provides links to web pages that may answer your question. Sometimes rephrasing a question will bring back different results, so try out several questions.

ixquick
This is a "Meta-Search Engine", which searches several search engines at one time. Try this when you're looking for obscure information or when other search engines don't turn up anything.

 

The Next Step

Let's take a look now at some additional techniques for focusing your Internet searches.

Click Here to continue.