With slogans like "Where
do you want to go today?" the Internet still holds a lot of excitement.
Unfortunately, the problem is not "where we want to go," it's getting there.
In order to get there, students still have to know a little bit about how
to "go." Searching the Internet involves three skills in particular that
are need-to-know for students seeking information; choosing search engines,
typing search terms, and knowing when to look elsewhere.
first tip for finding information on the Internet is to choose a search
engine wisely. Not all search engines are equal. Each engine has a specific
function. Actually, they have one of three functions. Some search engines
are like catalogues. They categorize sites according to general subjects,
like a table of contents in a book outlines the chapters. They also try
to make sure they have the best sites for the information needed. Three
major engines that are subject-based are Yahoo, Infoseek, and Excite. When
looking for general information about a subject, these engines are the
best place to "go." In addition to subject-based, another type of search
engine acts like an index of a book. Examples of index-based search engines
are Altavista, Hotbot, and Lycos. They try to keep track all of the words
in a site and then search through each term to find a match. Use an index-based
engine to find detailed information about something or someone. The last
type is actually a search of the search engines. They do what is called
a meta-search. Meta means they search several of the search engines like
the six already mentioned to find the most results. They find individual
terms as well as subjects. While meta-searches return a lot of information,
they can also find too much information. Examples of meta-search engines
are Dogpile, and Metacrawler.1
(There are many more search engines on the web, but the engines mentioned
above are generally most familiar.)
After learning and using
the types of search engines, it's best to pick two to use as favorites.
Choose one subject-based engine, like Yahoo, and one index-based search
engine, like Altavista. When seeking general information, use Yahoo, but
if Yahoo does not return anything, then switch over to the index-based
search engine. If Altavista does not find any information then switch to
Infoseek. If Infoseek does not find any info then switch to Lycos. If Lycos
. . . you get the picture. In short, choose one subject based search engine
and one index-based search engine as favorite places to start looking for
general or detailed information.
After selecting a search
engine, the second tip for searching is to choose and to structure search
terms wisely. Begin with a detailed description of the needed information.
If the search engine finds nothing, then make the search description more
general. For example, students looking for information on Mississippi River
flooding would type 'Mississippi,' 'River' and 'flooding' as their search
terms. If they get no returns, then they might try just 'Mississippi' and
'River.' Along with starting with a detailed search, use quotes to define
names or titles. If you are looking for Bill Cosby, put his name in quotes,
"Bill Cosby", or you might get Bill Smith, David Cosby, or even The Cosby
Show. Start with a detailed description of the information needed, and
use more general descriptions if necessary.
The third tip for searching
the internet is to know when to stop. If a student can not find something
on the Internet after thirty minutes to an hour then she probably ought
to leave the computer and look around the library or ask for help. It is
possible that there is information on the internet that a search engine
does not find. For this reason, it is important to change search engines.
It is also possible that a page on the Internet uses different terms to
describe the desired information. For this reason it is important to change
search terms. But after switching search engines and changing search terms
for more than an hour, it is best to leave the Internet, at least for today!
Remember, the library hasn't gone anywhere, and it is still the best place
to find the information you are looking for . . . because in addition to
all of the books, the library has computers with an Internet connection
searching for general information use a subject-based search engine. If
searching for detailed information use an index-based search engine.