Using the Internet
Exercise 1: Looking for information
When you look for information on the Web - in search engines of the database sites - you need to learn how to search.
For the most part, you cannot just enter in to the seach engine a question, or one word. Instead you need to adopt four search strategies. These are quite easy to learn, and you will improve over time.
Search Methods and Guidelines
1. Know Where to Look
- If you are looking for a Web site devoted to a subject [rather than a page within a Web site, or an item in an online database), then you are best using YAHOO.
- If you are looking a document or text about a subject, you would be best to use one of the search engines such as Hotbot, Google, or Altavista.
- If you are looking for specific piece of information - for instance a date, or a name, searching one of the online databases makes the most sense.
2. Know What You Are Looking For
- It is important to form your "query words" as clearly as possible. For instance, if you are interested in finding information on a particular
musician, do not search for "music", but for a style [eg "jazz" or "electronica"] or a name ["Abba", "Bjork", or "charlie parker"].
- In history, for example, if you wanted to find a Web site on the the Holocaust, you could just type in "Holocaust" into Yahoo, which will give you a list of of Holocaust sites. If you are looking for more specific information, and type "holocaust" into Hotbot, however, you will get over 115,000 hits! [The first one is in fact a very useful guide to Holocaust documents, but you will also get many useless documents]. But, suppose you want to find out much more specific information about the Holocaust - for instance about the Holocaust and the destruction of Gypsies, it is better search for "Holocaust Gypsies". Let's go further; suppose you wanted to find out about what happened to Hungarian Gypsies during the Holocaust, you would used "holocaust gypsies Hungary" - and retrieve only pages devoted to that subject.
3. Use "Boolean" Operators
- Don't be afraid of the words "Boolean Operators". They is simply a way by which you can expand or limit searches by using the words
AND, OR, NOT
If you use the word "AND" in a search query - for example "holocaust AND gypsies AND hungary", the search engines will assume you only want documents which include all three words. Using AND is a way of narrowing your search, and tends to be used when your first effort gets too many hits.
If you use the word "OR" in a search query - for example "holocaust OR gypsies OR hungary", the search engines will find any document that contains any of the words. In the example here, it would find any document about the Holocaust, or about Gypsies, or about Hungary. This would not be very useful. But, for example, imagine you were looking for information on homosexuals in the Holocaust, then you might want to seach for "gay or homosexual", since both words are commonly used. Using OR is a way of expanding your search, and tends to be used when your first effort does not collect enough information
Suppose you want to find documents on the Holocaust, but not documents which include discussions of gypsies or homosexuals, you can use the word NOT to exclude documents with these words. For example "holocaust NOT gypsies NOT homosexuals" would find all documents on the Holocaust, except those that use the words "gypsies" or "homosexuals". [But documents with "gypsy" or "gay" would still come up.]
If you use no AND, OR, or NOT, but just a string of words - "holocaust gypsies
hungary", some search engines cases assume you mean AND, and
others assume you mean OR. You take charge by using the operators that best suit your
needs. By the way, if you search for a word and
capitalize it, search engines will only look for that word where it begins with a Capital
letter. If you use lower case letter, the search engine will look
for any version of the word, including the capitalized version.
4. Take Advantage of Other People's Efforts
- "Links" Sites
There are many "Links" sites on the net. In some cases, an expert or someone with a real interest in a subject, has already searched out a lot of information - Web sites, documents, pictures, and created a "links" page.
- When you are looking for information in a search engine, you will often come across a link to such an organized "Links" site. You can save yourself a great deal of effort, by using that site a basis for further exploration. For example, suppose you wanted information on a modern singer such as Bjork, you will find that Hotbot brings up over 16,000 pages, most of which are not very useful - for instance, listings of her album at record store Web sites. Some of the first pages HotBot calls up should be avoided by decent people [!], but number six is a link to the Bjork Cafe, a "fan" page with links to a great deal of interesting information. These sort of "Links" pages exist not only for pop stars, but on almost any subject. Try to find such a page for the subject you are researching, and you will find locating information is much easier.
Make sure to read Search Methods and Guidelines above.
Goal: To develop skills in searching for digital data and evaluating what is found.
Assignment: Find Web pages with pictures and discussions of the following items. Try using http://www.google.com, http://www.yahoo.com or http://www.scour.com.
Explain the kind of problems you had in finding the information and how you rate the sites you did find.
- A ziggurat from Sumer.
- The pyramids of Egypt. [Hint: try adding search words such as "Giza" or "Cairo" if you get too many pages.]
- Evolution of human beings.