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10 Power Tips for Searching the Internet
by
Greg Gore

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By all accounts, searching for information is the number one Internet application. As a professional who is paid to search the Internet, Leszek Chudzinski, reference/business librarian at Chester County Library, has developed some valuable power tips for searching the Internet:

1. Identify the information you are seeking. Be as specific as possible. For example, types of searches can be classified into categories such as statistics, almanac-type information, primary sources, perspectives, hot topics, images and sounds, quotations, advice, biographical information, late-breaking news and many others. These categories can then be sub-divided. For instance, are you looking for business statistics, government statistics, or medical statistics?

2. If you know of specific sites that may have the information you want, start with those sites rather than with a general search engine. For example, Business.com, a new site, is a good place to begin searching for all kinds of business statistical data. Today, almost every site has its own search window, making it very easy to search for information within a site.

3. For foreign information, go to foreign sites. Usually, foreign sites have an English language option.

4. If you don't know where to begin, go to the Chester County Library Homepage (http://www.ccls.org). The library homepage provides quick access to numerous search engines, including Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo, Excite, Highway 61, Looksmart, Lycos and others.

5. Use the Chester County Library site for help in selecting a search engine. Each of the general search engines has strengths and drawbacks. Google offers good hits fast, Alta Vista and Lycos are good starting points if you have a specific keyword, and Yahoo is recommended if you have a broad subject search and need to narrow your focus. The library site features annotated information on additional search engines.

6. Search for information about Chester County and the Delaware Valley by using the links the library homepage provides to local sites including Chester County Connect, Meta Chester County, Yahoo Chester County, Libertynet and Yahoo Philadelphia.

7. Access the Pennsylvania Online World of Electronic Resources (POWER) from home by using a valid Chester County Library card. By entering your library barcode number, you can have access to full-text databases of periodicals and reference resources. One of these resources, EBSCOHost, provides indexing and full-text access to over 3,000 periodicals.

8. Search using specialized databases. Some search resources are restricted to in-library use only. One of these resources, Dun's Million Dollar Directory, provides information on businesses with twenty or more employees and annual sales of at least one million dollars. Another resource, Reference USA, gives information on businesses of every size. A search of Chester County businesses produced 2,677 records on Dun's Million Dollar Directory and over 17,500 records on Reference USA.

9. If you want to search and don't have home access to the Internet, you can go to the public library and access the Internet for free. The library also has information about how to get on the Chester County Interlink (CCIL).

10. For still more help in searching the Internet, call the library reference department at 610-280-2620/21 or e-mail the department at ref@ccls.org.

There are some misconceptions about the Internet that Leszek feels are important to know. The first misconception is that the Internet has everything. The second misconception is that everything is free on the Internet. The truth is that some sites provide information to "hook" you. Then, if you want more information, you have to pay for it.

No single search engine covers more than forty percent of the Internet. Most search engines probably fall into the fifteen to twenty percent coverage range.

In conclusion, Leszek says that searching the Internet is a skill that, just as any other skill, must be developed. The more you practice searching, the more systematic, intuitive and effective your searches will become.

__________

The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (www.GregGore.com)

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on September 13, 2000. Greg Gore can be reached at gg@GregGore.com.

2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.