These days, finding information can be as easy as picking up your phone and asking a question, but don’t expect to always get the perfect answer. The Internet is simply too vast for a traditional search to work every time, and the information available comes in too many forms for a single tool to manage it all.
Much like finding answers at work, in order to get the best information online, you need to know both how to ask your question and who to ask. Search engines are wonderful for day-to-day questions, but there are plenty of times when they simply can’t mine deep enough into the Web for the information you need. So what do you do when that happens?
In the following sections, we’ll take a look at the many ways you can find answers online and help you develop useful strategies for optimizing your search efforts.
With billions of pages, you could spend a lifetime hunting for specific information. So where do you start? Searching the Web requires part skill, part luck and a little bit of art.
Understanding how to perform sophisticated searches of online information will greatly increase your chances of finding what you want. Popular search engines let you define search criteria in very specific ways, but not all function identically.
Anyone with a computer and Internet access can become an electronic publisher. While the Web explodes with information, it also poses a vexing problem: What is the quality of the information?
Although search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo! index billions of web pages and other electronic documents, this represents only a tiny part of the total information available on the World Wide Web. To unearth the buried treasure, understand how to mine the data.
Many tools exist on the Internet to help you discover primary and secondary sources of information. The first thing to ask is “what kind of information do I need?”
Gopher, FTP, WAIS, Archie, Veronica, Jughead are older tools for searching and retrieving files on the Internet. With the development of the World Wide Web, you really don't need to know the gory details of how to use these anymore, but in case you're interested, find out.
The Importance of Good Web Searching Skills
The World Wide Web is constantly growing. Every day new blogs are posted, webpages are updated, books are released, articles are written, and brand new forms of content are being created. It’s impossible to keep up with it all, which is why knowing the right tools to use is essential for successfully navigating the web.
If you’ve read all of the above articles, consider yourself a knowledgeable web searcher. The next time your boss asks someone to track down information about a new product, speak up and volunteer. You have the tools to find anything online.
And now it’s time to put your new-found knowledge to the test. Try our out Net Hunt 1.0 quiz, and see how quickly you can find what you’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know whether or not I can trust the information I find online?
When researching online, it’s important to consider the source of the information you find. Anyone can publish a website or a blog, regardless of their knowledge or experience. For the most reliable results, stick with trusted sources, such as well-recognized news organization, magazines, or peer-reviewed journals. This is not to say that blogs and personal websites can’t be rich sources of quality information. They definitely can, but it’s more difficult to discern credibility. For more information about wading through the massive amount of information out there, make sure to review our articles on Evaluating Online Information and Doing Online Research.
Are there other search engines available besides the big four?
In our Searching the Web article, we focus on Yahoo!, Ask.com, Bing, and Google, because these are the most widely used and trusted search engines in the world. However, there are many alternatives available, each with its own benefits. DuckDuckGo may not provide all of the features as Google or Bing, it uses fewer ads and does not track users. If you need Google-rich features, but prefer not to be tracked, StartPage will perform a Google search for you, but discard any tracking cookies or other personal information. Another option is to use a metasearch tool, such as Dogpile, which simultaneously searches multiple search engines, including Google and Yahoo!, and presents the most relevant results for you.
How do I find music or movies online?
There are several ways you can find multimedia online. A search using any of the major search engines will provide some video results (in some cases, you will need to go to a special “video” tab). However, these are typically limited to easily-searchable video providers, such as YouTube or Yahoo! Music. In most cases, online music and videos fall into what’s known as the Deep Web, because most services that provide online music and videos require users to sign up and log in before they can view their content. This is particularly true for protected content. To search these libraries, you need to go directly to the service’s website, such as Amazon.com, or use special software, such as Apple’s iTunes.
How do I find academic information online?
For academic research, you typically need to stick with scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. There are a number of ways you can locate these type of articles. The most reliable is to stop by your school’s library and ask a librarian, but that’s not always the most convenient way. For online research, you can use a tool like Google Scholar or JSTOR. In some cases, you may need to contact your library to get access to these journals. Another good idea is to visit your school or city’s library website. Most libraries provide a list of research tools, which can be used to search online databases for academic articles, books, and journals. Since these are typically stored in databases and/or require a login to view, you won’t find them using a standard search engine. To learn more about performing academic searches, see Doing Research on the Internet.