A  Search Methodology

Follow these steps to focus your search activities.

Russ Portrait

I recommend that you follow a structured technique such as:

  1. Spell it Out - Define the topic, and generate a list of search terms
  2. Strategize - Choose which online tool(s) and resources will work best on your search terms
  3. Search - Get online, execute, stay focused, use advanced search features
  4. Sift - Filter the results, follow the leads
  5. Save - Take notes, organize results, make bookmark/share.
1. Spell it Out

Spell-out the subject you are searching for. Write down any keywords, acronyms and abbreviations.  Be sure the think about the "who" associated with your subject. Who would be likely to produce or publish the information you are seeking? Is there a well-known expert, university or association that specializes in your subject. The words you write down become the basis for searches later on. For example; a search for cancer treatment information might involve the following terms; cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, melanoma, oncology, NCI ("National Cancer Institute"), AMA ("American Medical Association"), etc.

2. Strategize - Choose your approach, which online resources, tools

Decide what are the best tools to use for each of your specific search terms. This requires that you understand there are different strengths and weaknesses of the various online tools. For more information, see my overview of search tools.

3. Search - Get online, execute, stay focused, use advanced search features

Your search results depend greatly on how you phrase your keywords. First, be sure you asking the appropriate level of detail for the specific tool you are using (simple words at DMOZ, obscure words and specific phrases at Google). You can focus your results when you take the time to read the help file and construct a more specific query. (See my Search Tools- Advanced Features) Consider these quick tips for Google:

 Search string

Google returns web pages which :

gigabit contain the word "gigabit"
gigabit testbed contain the word "gigabit" and  "testbed"
"gigabit testbed" must contain the phrase "gigabit testbed"
gigabit site:.gov must contain the word "gigabit", and be hosted on a .gov website
link:http://www.whitehouse.gov contain a hyperlink to the whitehouse web site


4. Sift - Filter the results, Follow the leads

You may be presented with many search results and potential leads. Stop and read, before you click and waste time. Scroll up and down the entire page, and determine which are the most promising links based on the descriptions. Before you click on a link, hover over the link, and read the link's URL in the browser's feedback area (at the bottom of the screen). You will be surprised how many dead-end links you will avoid just by reading their URLs first. Finally, Whenever you see 2 or more interesting links to pursue, go ahead and explore all of them simultaneously by opening multiple web browsers.

As you look through the search results, you should also be taking notes of new information that you will use in future iterations of your search.

5. Save

When you discover a great site, be sure to save this discovery, or you are doomed to repeat the search all over again. Methods of saving include:

Russ Haynal -  Internet Instructor and Speaker

Contact me at 703-729-1757 or  Russ 'at' navigators.com  
If you use email, put "internet training" in the subject of the email.
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