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Research on the Web: Part 1
Bose Corporate Library


To provide a basic understanding of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and strategies for finding relevant information on the web.


  1. History
  2. Connecting to the net
  3. Basic features of web browsers
  4. Focusing your research
  5. Choosing the best tools
  6. Tools
  7. Evaluating what you found
  8. Everything is not on the Internet!
  9. Other ways to find useful web sites
  10. For further self-study

1. History

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2. Connecting to the Internet

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3. Basic Features of Web Browsers

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Netscape and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, versions 3.x and 4.x

4. Focusing your research

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5. Choosing the best tools

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Remember: Tool Types:
Which tool for the job?
  • Quick, pinpointed search for specific info:
    virtual reference collections
  • A few useful documents in a subject area:
    subject guides
  • Obscure, "needle-in-a-haystack", uniquely named things:
    general search engines
  • Comprehensive, up-to-date, in-depth information:
    commercial databases (contact the library)

6. Tools: General Search Engines

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Strategies for search engines

Exercise #1: Using Search Engines

  • Use Altavista to search for a topic of your own choosing.
  • Put relevant items in your bookmarks.

Tools: Subject Guides

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Search Engines vs. Subject Guides

Search Engines: Search engines, such as AltaVista, create their listings automatically. "Spiders" crawl the web, then a searchable database is created of what they have found. Keyword searching retrieves documents that contain the word or words you enter. Often times this leads to many irrelevant documents that only mention your search terms in passing.

Subject Guides: A directory such as Yahoo depends on humans for its listings. Humans collect and read web pages and decide what categories to list them under. You can then browse through the categories to find lists of relevant web sites. Often a search button is included to help you find which categories your topic is listed under. The total scope of a directory like Yahoo is much smaller than a search engine (thousands instead of millions of documents), but your search results are often much more relevant than with search engines.

Exercise #2: Using Subject Guides

  • Use Yahoo to browse for a topic of your own choosing.
  • Put relevant items in your bookmarks.

Tools: Virtual Reference Collections

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Exercise #3: Using virtual reference collections

Answer the following questions and tell which tool you used from one of the virtual reference collections.

  • What is the weather report for Columbia, SC today?
  • When it is 11:30 am in New York (today), what day and time is it in Sydney, Australia?
  • Find 2 books about "activity-based costing" and write down their titles and authors.
  • How many liters are equal to one bushel?
  • What are some names and phone numbers for retail florists in or near Framinghham, MA?

Exercise #4: Choosing the best tool

Choose a research tool to answer each of the following, and say why you chose that tool instead of another. Refer to "Which tool for the job?" for help.

  • What is the web page address for the National Employee Rights Institute?
  • What is "buy nothing day" and when is it usually celebrated?
  • What are some good web sites for finding out about computer related health hazards?
  • What is the approximate population count for the entire world?

7. Evaluating what you found

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The table below is an excerpt from Evaluating Internet Research Sources by Robert Harris.

Summary of The CARS Checklist for Research Source Evaluation


trustworthy source, ísauthor credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support. Goal: an authoritative source, a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.


up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy. Goal: a source that is correct today (not yesterday), a source that gives the whole truth.


fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone. Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth.


listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied. Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (find at least two other sources that support it).

For additional reading on this topic:
1. Hall of Mirrors? Information Quality..."
2. Internet Detective: an interactive tutorial on evaluating the quality of Internet resources
See an excerpt from Internet Detective on URLs here.

8. Remember, everything is not on the Internet!

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Think about whether to use the Internet at all for your search. Maybe a book or journal article is better. See article "When the Book, When the Net?" Ask the librarians to do research for you.

Bose Corporate Library: Research Request Form

Summary of what you can expect to find or not find on the Internet

Internet - Yes:

Internet - No:
Best found in the "real" world. (i.e. professional, commercial databases):

9. Other ways to find out about useful web sites:

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10. For further self-study:

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Internet basics:
ILC Glossary of Internet Terms
Ten Internet Myths
HTML tutorials:
NCSA: A Beginner's Guide to HTML
CNET: HTML for Beginners
Webmonkey: Teaching Tool: HTML
Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in a Week: (book available in the Bose Corporate Library)
Best articles on understanding search engines:
How Search Engines Work
Searching the Internet, part 1: Search Engines
Searching the Internet, part 2: Subject Catalogs
Site-ation Perl Growing
Internet Public Library: Links to Search Engines
"Can you trust your search engine?"
Privacy and security:
Electronic Privacy and Information Center
Cyberlaw: Online course on cyberspace law for non-lawyers
What are cookies? EPIC Page
How webservers' cookies threaten your privacy - JunkBusters Page
How to respond to "spam." The Email Abuse FAQ
Links to searchable library catalogs around the world.
Intranets: Complete Intranet Reference Site

Research on the Web, part 2