> Internet Search Course

Internet Search Course
Recherche sur Internet avec les outils anglo-saxons

By/Par Emmanuel Barthe


1. The Way to a Successful Search

2. Resources for Internet Search


1. The Way to a Successful Search

1.1. Define your Search Scope : WWWWH

  • What :
    • industry : steel industry, software industry, legal profession
    • theme, subject and category
    • keywords
  • Who : names of persons and bodies (author, publisher, political man, ...)
  • Where : places, cities, states, countries, regions
  • When : date, period
  • How : facts.

1.2. First, Go for the Authorities in the Subject Field :

  • generally, the Internet resources which probably have the quickest - and among the best - answer to your question are those of the authorities on the same subject in the real or the paper world. They are ...
  • the publishers who publish the authoritative encyclopedias or books on the subject (exemple : on US law, the legal publishers) :
    • those publishers may have offer free resources on their sites. Exemple : FindLaw is a free resource now owned by West, the biggest US legal publisher
    • your firm may have a subscription to its online encyclopedias/books (on its extranet). Exemple : both West and Oceana now have the majority of their titles available online
  • the public (or sometimes private) authorities in the field. Exemple : if your question is about the right to possess guns, you may well find your answer on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and National Rifle Association (NRA) sites.
    But that shoud not stop you from defining your search in terms of keywords (gun control, firearms regulation, right to carry handguns) and running your search on some search engines and directories (see below).

1.3. Choose the Relevant Tools, Depending on :

  • the type of the question :
    • is it a broad, thematic one (prefer directories) or a needle-in-the-haystack one (choose search engines)
    • is it about very recent events (less than 1 month 1/2 old : use news sources), older (you can use search engines) or even years ago (then go for the invisible web)
  • the industry (find the major industry portals in directories or using a very good search engine)
  • the theme/subject/category (look for such a category in general purpose directories ; if none, use directories of search tools in the wider sense, among which directories of directories, or look for specialized links pages on the subject using a good search engine)
  • your patron/client's needs : time allowed for the search, cost factor, user's depth of knowledge in the field (high/average/none)
  • not to forget your own agenda.

1.4. Start with a Broad Query, Then Narrow your Search

  • Search terms :
    • use the words of the place and industry
    • don't forget synonyms
    • test and improve your search terms before writing the first real query
    • if it does not give out good results :
      • refine your query
      • then try alternative search terms.
  • Operators :
    • use them carefully
    • avoid the NOT
    • link synonyms with the OR boolean operator an put them between brackets. For instance : (competition OR antitrust). But don't use more than one or two ORs : the Internet and its search engines do not like too sophisticated queries
    • always prefer the AND (often also spelled "+" and can be replaced by a blank space, as in Google) .
  • Best search tools :
    • begin with Google's Advanced search, the best interface of today's best search engine
    • if it does not give out good and relevant results, try one of the subject specific databases available on the Web and/or go to the relevant subject matter of a good general directory (the Open Directory Project/DMOZ is the best) or try a specialized one (for instance : Findlaw).

1.4. When to Stop

  • the Internet is a mess and offers neither full coverage nor - in most cases - full text : so don't waste time
  • there are other media and resources : commercial databases, libraries, book shops, publishers, experts, your colleagues, phone, fax, e-mail, letter
  • Set a time limit and stick to it. On average, stop searching the free Web without results after you have spent a quarter of an hour (if you have a good knowledge in the field) or half an hour (if you are a beginner in Internet search or you have little knowledge in the matter).

You want to go further ? Read one of the best articles on Web search : "Search the Web more efficiently" by Daniel Bazac.


2. Resources for Internet Search

2.1. Internet Search Tools

2.2. Company Information

2.3. The Press

2.4. Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

2.5. An Old Librarian's New Tricks

Annexes :

US and Anglo-saxon tools for the Internet Researcher : A selection

Internet search terms : English-French


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