Posts Tagged ‘search’

Thing 5 – Using the Web for Research

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

About Using the Web for Research

The Web has revolutionized the way research is done.  The Web has eliminated the need in many cases to access physical items. Articles, books, images, recordings, videos of interest to researchers are available through the Web.

This cornucopia of resources available at little or no monetary charge does come at some cost. Researchers must often fill the same role we expected from curators and librarians, evaluating and acquiring information.

Much of the following comes from Searching and Researching on the Internet and the World Wide Web 5th Edition, by Hartman & Ackermann.

Evaluate Your Information Needs

Types of Information Most Likely Found on the Internet and the World Wide Web

Current information. Many major newspapers, broadcasting networks, and popular magazines have Web sites that provide news updates throughout the day. Current Financial and weather information also is easily accessible.

Government information. Most federal, state, and local government agencies provide statistics and other information freely and in a timely manner. Most foreign governments provide official information as well.

Popular culture. It’s easy to find information on the latest movie or best-selling book.

Open access literature. Works such as Shakespeare’s plays, the Bible, Canterbury Tales, and thousands of other full-text literary resources are available. More and more academic journals are being published on the Internet in all subjects. Read more about the open access in “Open Access Movement,” by Peter Suber.

Business and company information. Not only do many companies provide their Web pages and annual reports, but several Internet-based databases also provide in-depth financial and other information about companies.

Consumer information. The Internet is a virtual gold mine of information for people interested in buying a particular item and who want opinions from other people about it. With access to everything from automobile reviews on the Web to Usenet newsgroups, consumers can find out about almost any item before they buy it.

Medical information. In addition to the hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and nonprofit organizations that publish excellent sources of medical information, the National Library of Medicine freely provides the PUBMED database to the public.

Entertainment. The Web is the first place many people go to find games, audio files, and video clips.

Software. The Web hosts software archives in which you can search for and download software to your computer without cost.

Unique archival sites. To take one example, the Library of Congress archives Americana in its American Memory collection.

Comparing Search Engines, Meta-search Tools, & Directories

Search engines Meta-search tools Directories
  • These attempt to index as much of the Web as possible.
  • Most are full-text databases.
  • Many require knowledge
    of search techniques to
    guarantee good results.
  • They are most often used
    for multifaceted or obscure
  • They search very large
    databases that are created by computer programs and are updated regularly.


  • Some allow you to search several search engines simultaneously.
  • Some supply lists of databases that can be searched directly from their pages.
  • They provide a good way to keep up with new search engines.
  • They may not fully exploit the features of individual search engines, so keep your search simple.


  • These contain topic lists of selected resources, usually hierarchically arranged.
  • Most resources in these tools have been evaluated carefully.
  • They can be browsed or searched by keyword.
  • They contain links to specialized databases and subject guides.

ipl2: Information You Can Trust, Infomine, Intute,Library SpotOpen Directory Project ,

A Checklist to Help You Choose the Right Tool

Search engines and meta-search tools should be consulted when looking for the following:

  • Obscure information
  • Multifaceted topics
  • A large amount of information on a particular topic from different perspectives

Search engines and meta-search tools should not be used to find the following:

  • News that happened yesterday or even last week. You’d be better off going to a specialized database that is updated daily or weekly.
  • Information in a particular form, such as journal or newspaper articles. You’d be better off searching a specialized database that focuses on the format
  • Someone’s telephone number or email address. Certain services focus specifically on this type of information. Maps. There are special databases for maps, too.

Directories are most useful for finding the following:

  • An overview of a topic.
  • Evaluated resources.
  • Facts such as population statistics or country information.
  • A specialized database for specific or very recent information.

Databases at UMW

  • UMW Library, like many libraries, offers online access to a number of databases. These databases often lead to links to peer-reviewed, scholarly publications and periodicals.
  • It is also important to note that the Library offers several guides to periodicals and doing research.

Using a site to maintain a collection of works to cite

Collection and citation tools

Hands-On Activity

  • Start Firefox
  • View Go to “Zotero – Quick Start Guide,”
  • Open another browser tab or window and go to the UMW Library information about using  Zotero. Read   the section on Zotero and UMW Library Catalogs.
  • Open another tab or browser window, go to and register for an account
  • Click on Tools in the menu bar, select Add-ons, find Zotero, click on preferences, and then log into your Zotero account.
  • Work on the Web researching the topic of your paper and save some materials in your Zotero account. Be sure to sync with the Zotero server before you leave.