To provide a basic understanding of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and strategies for finding relevant information on the web.
- Connecting to the net
- Basic features of web browsers
- Focusing your research
- Choosing the best tools
- Evaluating what you found
- Everything is not on the Internet!
- Other ways to find useful web sites
- For further self-study
1. History[return to outline]
- When did it begin? What is the Internet?
- BBN Internet Timeline
- Chart: number of Internet hosts over time (from Hobbes' Internet Timeline)
- A Short History of the Internet, by Bruce Sterling
- Definitions of Internet, internet, and intranet (ILC Glossary of Internet Terms)
- Before the web:
- The World Wide Web (WWW)
- HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol)
Lynx, Mosaic, Netscape, Internet Explorer, and others
2. Connecting to the Internet[return to outline]
- from work, firewalls, security
- from home, modems
- ISPs (Internet Service Providers): Boardwatch Directory of ISPs, survey results: highest rated ISP
- online services (America Online, CompuServe) (many people hate AOL, here's why)
- high-speed access: cable, ISDN, etc., bandwidth comparison chart (theoretical bandwidth!)
3. Basic Features of Web Browsers[return to outline]
Netscape and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, versions 3.x and 4.x
- "New window with this link" or "open link in new window"
- Forward & back
- Go menu, history
- URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) and how they work
- Domain names and statistics
- Open location, address bar, location bar, open page
- Reload, refresh
- Bookmarks, favorites
- Frames (example site using frames)
- Save: as text, as html, saving images
- Plug-ins and helpers, Adobe Acrobat viewer, etc.
- View document source, view page source
- What is HTML? A Beginner's Guide to HTML from NCSA
- Some basic tags.
4. Focusing your research[return to outline]
- What exactly is your topic?
- What aspects of it are you interested in?
- Think of keywords, synonyms, and other ways to express it, also consider opposite terms (i.e., employment, unemployment).
- How current does the information need to be?
- How will you use the information?
- What types or formats do you want? -- charts, graphs, tables, short articles, long articles, news stories, photos, illustrations, scholarly articles, theses, books, videos, bibliographies, on-line discussions, etc.
5. Choosing the best tools[return to outline]
- There is no single best tool for a certain type of question.
- Usually a combination of approaches is best.
- The Internet is in constant flux and sometimes tools and information disappear.
- The Internet doesn't contain all the answers.
- Serendipity and previous experience will give you an edge.
- You can't trust or believe everything you find on the Internet.
- You can always ask for help from your corporate librarians.
- Much quality information is available only in commercial databases for a fee.
- General search engines. (Altavista, InfoSeek, Excite, Hotbot, etc.)
- Subject guides or directories. (Yahoo, Mining Company , WWW Virtual Library, etc.)
- Virtual reference collections. (Yahoo reference, Web sites for Bose employees: reference)
- Specialized search engines and subject guides (these will be covered in "Research on the Web, part 2")
Which tool for the job?
- Quick, pinpointed search for specific info:
virtual reference collections
- A few useful documents in a subject area:
- Obscure, "needle-in-a-haystack", uniquely named things:
general search engines
- Comprehensive, up-to-date, in-depth information:
commercial databases (contact the library)
6. Tools: General Search Engines[return to outline]
Strategies for search engines
- Understand the search engine: read the "help" files
- Type one or more words in the search box
- Choose search options
- Click the "Start Search" or "Submit" button
- View the list of retrieved documents
- Refine and repeat the search, don't give up if your first try isn't fruitful
Finding the right keywords:
Search engines tips and hints.
- If possible, use a phrase. Enclose in quotation marks.
- Think of 2 to 5 words that unambiguously describe the subject.
- Use synonyms.
What to do if the search turned up too many documents.
- Check your spelling.
- Don't use commonly used articles or web terms.
- Don't type plurals, use the wild card. Example:
"time zone*", instead of "time zone" or "time zones"
- lower case will find both lower and upper case words (use lower case most of the time)
What to do if the search turned up nothing.
- In Altavista use the + sign in front of each word that you want to appear in the results. Example:
+unemployment +statistics +california
- put double quotes around a phrase. Example:
"top ten movies"
- Use a more specific search engine relevant to your topic.
- Check your spelling.
- Try alternative key words.
- If your words aren't a phrase, don't use the phrase option.
- Try fewer terms.
Exercise #1: Using Search Engines
- Use Altavista to search for a topic of your own choosing.
- Put relevant items in your bookmarks.
Tools: Subject Guides[return to outline]
Search Engines vs. Subject Guides
Search Engines: Search engines, such as AltaVista, create their listings automatically. "Spiders" crawl the web, then a searchable database is created of what they have found. Keyword searching retrieves documents that contain the word or words you enter. Often times this leads to many irrelevant documents that only mention your search terms in passing.
Subject Guides: A directory such as Yahoo depends on humans for its listings. Humans collect and read web pages and decide what categories to list them under. You can then browse through the categories to find lists of relevant web sites. Often a search button is included to help you find which categories your topic is listed under. The total scope of a directory like Yahoo is much smaller than a search engine (thousands instead of millions of documents), but your search results are often much more relevant than with search engines.
- Use Subject Guides, also know as Directories, Subject Trees, etc.
- Try Yahoo for a general guide. Try The Mining Co. for specific subject guides. Yahoo's hierarchy: broad to specific
- Start with a broad category. Click downward, browsing through sub categories until you find what you want.
- Top buttons: new, cool, today's news, more Yahoos.
- Searching Yahoo.
Exercise #2: Using Subject Guides
- Use Yahoo to browse for a topic of your own choosing.
- Put relevant items in your bookmarks.
Tools: Virtual Reference Collections[return to outline]
Exercise #3: Using virtual reference collections
Answer the following questions and tell which tool you used from one of the virtual reference collections.
- What is the weather report for Columbia, SC today?
- When it is 11:30 am in New York (today), what day and time is it in Sydney, Australia?
- Find 2 books about "activity-based costing" and write down their titles and authors.
- How many liters are equal to one bushel?
- What are some names and phone numbers for retail florists in or near Framinghham, MA?
Exercise #4: Choosing the best tool
Choose a research tool to answer each of the following, and say why you chose that tool instead of another. Refer to "Which tool for the job?" for help.
- What is the web page address for the National Employee Rights Institute?
- What is "buy nothing day" and when is it usually celebrated?
- What are some good web sites for finding out about computer related health hazards?
- What is the approximate population count for the entire world?
7. Evaluating what you found[return to outline]
The table below is an excerpt from Evaluating Internet Research Sources by Robert Harris.
Summary of The CARS Checklist for Research Source Evaluation
trustworthy source, ísauthor credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support. Goal: an authoritative source, a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.
up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy. Goal: a source that is correct today (not yesterday), a source that gives the whole truth.
fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone. Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth.
listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied. Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (find at least two other sources that support it).
For additional reading on this topic:
1. Hall of Mirrors? Information Quality..."
2. Internet Detective: an interactive tutorial on evaluating the quality of Internet resources
See an excerpt from Internet Detective on URLs here.
8. Remember, everything is not on the Internet![return to outline]
Think about whether to use the Internet at all for your search. Maybe a book or journal article is better. See article "When the Book, When the Net?" Ask the librarians to do research for you.
Bose Corporate Library: Research Request Form
Summary of what you can expect to find or not find on the Internet
Internet - Yes:
- computers & other technology info.
- news and weather
- company promotional and advertising
- some financial statistics on public companies
- maps, dictionaries, phone directories
- popular culture & hobbies
- education: colleges & universities
- public-domain novels & literature (copyright expired)
Internet - No:
Best found in the "real" world. (i.e. professional, commercial databases):
- Market studies
- scientific journal articles (a few available on the web)
- business journal articles (a few available on the web)
- in-depth studies and analysis (that cost money to prepare)
- novels and literature (you want to have the physical book in your hand)
9. Other ways to find out about useful web sites:[return to outline]
10. For further self-study:[return to outline]
- Internet basics:
- ILC Glossary of Internet Terms
- Ten Internet Myths
- HTML tutorials:
- NCSA: A Beginner's Guide to HTML
- CNET: HTML for Beginners
- Webmonkey: Teaching Tool: HTML
- Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in a Week: (book available in the Bose Corporate Library)
- Best articles on understanding search engines:
- How Search Engines Work
- Searching the Internet, part 1: Search Engines
- Searching the Internet, part 2: Subject Catalogs
- Site-ation Perl Growing
- Internet Public Library: Links to Search Engines
- "Can you trust your search engine?"
- Privacy and security:
- Electronic Privacy and Information Center
- Cyberlaw: Online course on cyberspace law for non-lawyers
- What are cookies? EPIC Page
- How webservers' cookies threaten your privacy - JunkBusters Page
- How to respond to "spam." The Email Abuse FAQ
- Links to searchable library catalogs around the world.
- Intranets: Complete Intranet Reference Site