Six Steps To Fool-Proof Web Searching

Educom Review, September/October 1998, p. 22

Planning is critical to successful Internet searching, says an instruction librarian at the University of Colorado–Boulder’s library system. Take these six steps to plan a successful search:

  1. Select sources up front. Realize that much of the information you dig up will be useless or of questionable origin and not strong enough for research. Decide what kinds of information you require before you begin, such as materials from government, industry, or scholarly sources.

  2. Write out keywords. Brainstorm potential keywords that can speed you to the sources in step 1. Have both broad and narrow words on hand.

  3. Select appropriate search sites. Note the differences among the three major kinds of search sites: general-topic search engines, specialized search engines, and directories. Each will yield a very different set of results.

  4. Write down your search statement. Based on the features and requirements of the search tool you use, write the most detailed and specific phrase possible that you will actually type into the computer. Take advantage of date restrictions and Boolean searching whenever possible.

  5. Check your results. More often than not, you’ll still end up with a long list of largely irrelevant hits. Evaluate the quality of your hits based on the source criteria you established in step 1.

  6. Refine the search. Rewrite your search statement, reevaluate the search terms, and check against your source criteria. If after five searches you don’t have what you need, look for other tools and start over.

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