How to: Research the Web Like a Librarian Does

Published by admin on January 15, 2010

One of the benefits of being naturally able to research, hunt down, compartmentalize and cubbyhole information is that you are a cinch for a librarian’s job. Not for nothing are librarians also called information professionals. It would stand all of us in good stead if we could search the web like how a librarian does.

Each one of us has gone through the experience of searching fruitlessly for information for hours only to have our friend saunter up to us and furnish us with the exact matter by going to the right website and typing some relevant query options.

Because the internet is such a huge and complex organism that can sometimes appear to be unfathomable, you should know not only what to search for but also where to look.

In this piece, we bring you the inside dope on how to research the web like a pro. Don’t worry, we won’t go into database design and query language, stuff that an accomplished librarian skilled in searching for the truth is expected to know.

Search engines such as Google and Bing are usually the first place to go to when searching for information. We can simplify our search efforts and increase result accuracy if we know how to use search operators. There are other very useful Google products such as Google Scholar, Google Maps, Google Sets, Google Suggest, and more that we can turn to depending upon our requirements.

Apart from the all-powerful, all-purpose generic search engines, there are many niche search engines that if you are aware of will be of immeasurable help. Pipl is one such site. It lets you search for people online using their name, email, username, and phone number. The searches also throw up images to narrow down results for you.

The organic and open nature of the internet is perhaps it’s most identifiable and beautiful feature. Lovers, searchers, and preservers of information have come together to create portals of information such as Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg. The latter site is a repository of more than 30,000 free ebooks.

The Internet Archive is a massive portal of text information, archives of moving images, live music concerts, audio files, and more. What’s more, the content is downloadable so that you can save it on your machine for later reference.

Anyone who has tried searching for song lyrics has come across weird words and sometimes downright funny mondegreens. Yahoo Music is a detailed database on all things music; the good thing about the site is that you can trust the lyrics put up there because these are supplied by the music publishers themselves.

Nation Master is dedicated to gathering and displaying information on countries from all over the world. The site is a statistician’s delight and lets you compare nations across innumerable metrics. You can generate maps, graphs, and charts to better understand region-related facts and figures. Another handy database of information on countries is the CIA World Factbook. State Master is the site to visit if you wish to go data mining for facts on any of the states in America.

OpenCongress is where you can go to keep tabs on the government. The portal informs on the official details on bills, votes in the Congress and also gives insight and a larger perspective. The site is interactive, informative, and invites you to participate in fostering accountability and transparency in Congress.

Swoogle is a cool search engine that throws up results in an ontological context. Must be of use to some, I guess.

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