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How to Do Research on the World Wide Web


Web searches are keyword searches, so be prepared to narrow your focus to several keywords that reflect your research. Experiment with rewording your focus. Relevant web sites are located by search engines which perform a literal search for the keywords you enter. Your keywords should be a useful filter: neither too narrow nor too broad. For instance, if your course topic is FOOD, you might want to narrow it down to BROWNIES or DIGESTION or FIBRE DIET. If you are using highly technical terms, your search might not yield any immediate results even though information is out there.

Again: be prepared to be focused, yet flexible in your choice of keywords.

TIP: Because search engines do vary, the results of the search might differ depending on your search string. Quotation marks around keyword phrases seem to work best. So: if you are looking for information on fibre diets, type :"fibre diet". Otherwise, the search will return all the sites with the word "fibre" OR "diet", yielding frustratingly broad records. Many search engines by default look for one term OR the other, unless otherwise advised.

A Search Engine

Is your first stop unless you know the specific web site address you wish to reach. Search engines are computer programs that search the Web for sites relevant to your inquiry. Here are some of the top engines:
Different search engines have different interfaces. For instance, Infoseek has a directory of subcategories that Altavista does not. Similarly, Some search engines yield more entries than others. If your keyword search yields few sources you might want to turn to another search engine.

TIP: The Northwestern University Library provides links to all the current search engines so that you can familiarize yourself with their interfaces and search capabilities:

TIP: You can also try SCAILAB's own search engine which lets you connect to 200 different search engines by simply choosing a search engine, typing in your selection, and clicking go.

An ADDRESS (url)

You might already know the address of the site you want to visit. Institutions and organizations routinely publicize them now. Some universities are better known for certain research. Look in the printed press for addresses you might find useful and use them as your point of departure.

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How to Navigate

Hold on to your mouse and click at the links. The underlined text is a link to another page. An image can be a link also (when the cursor turns into a pointing finger). Left-click once and watch a new page emerge. Follow the links. Use the navigation bar at the top of the browser to move back and forward.

Literary Links for Your Surfing Pleasure

UIC’s Missing Links “Essays, images and links created by the UIC students inspired in part by what is missing at UIC or on its official web pages”: Students of UIC united in provocative critique.
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