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Finding It on the Internet

Mar 12, 2008
Whatever the "it" is that you're looking for, you can find it if you know how and where to look. There are many different ways to find what you're looking for, but the two simplest and most direct ways are through search engines and through subject directories. Both of these have distinct advantages and are used for slightly different purposed, depending upon what your needs are. Understanding how they work will help you determine which one suits your own needs.

Search engines are by far the most popular way to find information on the Internet. They crawl the Internet looking for key words and key phrases that it recognizes for you on millions of available pages and returns matching results ranked in order of their apparent relevance to your needs. Google, Yahoo Search and Ask are some of the most popular search engines going.

These search engines recognize words and phrases and are generally based on Boolean search. That is, you can indicate whether you want to include or eliminate something from the search parameters with a plus or minus sign. For instance, "celebrity - teen" will return results of all celebrities except teenagers, while "pregnant + celebrity" should return only pages that include pregnant celebrities.

Search engines will throw out "neutral" or meaningless words such as the, an, of, etc., so you can type in only the essential words for your search to get the results you need. They will search for the most relevant combination of the words in closest proximity, as well as how often they appear on a page and where they are located on a page.

Subject Directories are collected web pages gathered by humans (rather than search engines) around specific topics. For instance, there are subject directories for everything from gardening to Shakespeare. The quality and reliability of subject directories varies widely depending on who has put them together. If you will be focusing a great deal of time and research on one particular subject, finding a good subject directory can save you a great deal of time by focusing your search and immediately finding you a treasure trove of resources all in one place.

Two of the highest quality subject directories available are the Librarian's Internet Index for general research, which is fully annotated and extremely reliable, and Infomine. About is also very reliable and is very good for the generalist. It features a broad, balanced staff of resident experts on a wide range of topics who are continually updating the content. These experts usually provide excellent overviews of their topics and suggested links to additional sources.

What sometimes stymies people when looking for information on the Internet is their sense of the literal. When they want information on dog obedience, they type in "Dog obedience," and get some answers, but perhaps not the answer they needed. The chance that the answer isn't out there is slim to none. Understanding that the Internet search engines and directories aren't yet perfected is the first step. The next step is to realize that not everyone will define the solution, or the problem, the same way. What is another phrase for "dog obedience?" Try dog training, puppy training, pet behavioral problems, training your dog, leash training, crate training, or pet obedience classes.

On the other hand, being too specific can be a problem, too. Looking for, " red plaid oval Christmas tablecloths" may not get you any results because the exact description of color, pattern and size is usually only found during the checkout at online stores. This information isn't going to rank in search engines. If you look for "Holiday tablecloths," you'll get plenty of results and you can browse through those until you find the ones that are available in red plaid and come in an oval to fit your table.

With practice you'll learn how to quickly and easily find whatever you need on the Internet as you come to understand how search engines work and when it's best to turn to a subject directory. Whatever method you choose, the Internet is the one place where you can find just about anything you want to research and/or purchase.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Store Reviews and Information and Team Fifty.
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