Internet is like wading in a vast ocean. Also the availability of a large
number of search tools might confuse the researcher. Understanding these
search tools before actually using them makes the research more
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 i.e. 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
Categories of Search Tools
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 catalogues that sort a limited number of sites on the topic. Some
frequently used search engines are:
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:
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:
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
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.
2003 Jagmohan Saluja, All rights reserved.