Choosing right tool for the job

There are basically four different strategies you can use. Which strategy is best is determined by the type of information you have and the type of information you want. The strategies are:

1. Directory Search - When you have only a vague idea of a topic area and need to browse through subject matter categories.  More about directories.

Example: A high school student who has to do a term paper for her biology class and thinks she might be interested in doing something on genetic engineering but has no specific topic in mind and wants to see what is out there. Browsing down through a directory's subject categories may eventually reveal a topic that interests her

2. Simple Search Engine - When you have only one or two keywords that you will use to search for a topic, simple search engines are good because their search logic and results logic will likely return some reasonably relevant results.  This is especially true if your keyword is for a well-known company or organization such as: Green Peace, Apple Computer, Princeton.

TIP: Google is by far the best of the simple search engines for getting good relevant results beause one of its most important ranking criteria is how many other “important” webpages link to a page.  If a page on AIDS is linked to by Center for Disease Control website pages, National Institute of Health website pages and  the National Science Foundation website, then it will be ranked higher than a page on AIDS which is linked to by only Joe Smith’s personal website.

TIP:  Simple search engines may not be good for general search terms like genetic engineering,  scuba or Paris as there are probably many many websites using those keywords many many times and the search engine’s search logic and results ranking logic probably will not be every effective for giving useful and relevant results ranked towards the top of your results page.

3. Advanced Search Engines - When you will use more than one keyword to search for a specific topic, using an “advanced” search engine AND advanced search techniques that allow you to define and control how the engine searches, will give you very relevant and well ranked results. 

NOTE:  Many search engines have an “advanced” search page but these are often little more than limited choices for “phrase” or “all the words” or “any of the words”. Many of these engines do not understand Boolean logic and will not provide good results if you use a Boolean expression.

TIP: The best search engine by far for using advanced search logic is, and has always been, Alta Vista.  Not only does it offer almost all of the advanced search technique controls but it also is one of the FEW search engines that offers a large text box to enter a long boolean expression, which makes it easy to check for syntax errors in your typing before you execute the search. It is also the ONLY search engine that allows you to have some control over ranking logic - a box to specify the most significant word or words to rank by.

4. Newsroups Search - Newsgroups are one of the best resources on the internet but, because they are text-based, many people have not heard of them. If you ever had a question and thought to yourself "I bet someone somewhere in the world knows the answer"..... newsgroups is a place where you can find that someone.

Newsgroups are like electronic message boards where people who are interested in a particular topic can post information relating to that topic or questions or answers relating to the topic.

Google has a very good search engine for newsgroups.