Getting Essential Information from Online Sources Help (page 2)
Introduction to Online Sources
The Internet, like any library, offers a wealth of different resources. What makes the Internet so uniquely appealing is that you don't have to leave the privacy of your desk to access materials from all over the world. In other words, rather than having to go to a library or other institution to seek out and investigate your sources, the Internet brings them to you. You should know that some Internet sites and search engines are better than others. This lesson will teach you the most convenient and efficient methods for using the Internet.
For many people, using the Internet is the most convenient method of gathering information, and although your task can be as simple as pressing a button, it is important to understand how the Internet and the World Wide Web work. The Internet, for the most part, functions on the same principles as a library or any other institution.
Refining Your Search on the Internet
Again, as you did when you were using a library or other institution, the more you can narrow down your topic and your list of questions, the easier it is to find specific material on the Internet that will be important to your research. As you refine your search, you can also skim and choose from a wide selection of different search engines—some of them arranged by topic matter. The 5 W's that you used to narrow down your paper topic will also help you here. For example, let's say that you are researching the variety of modern dance classes that are offered in New York City. If your topic were comparing different contemporary dance classes to distinctive styles of various choreographers, you could find a comprehensive listing of sites and a basis for information by typing:
"Modern dance classes" + "New York City"
Or, if you are researching President Kennedy's assassination and you want to check all the available American history information in New York City, you would type:
"American History Archives" + "New York City"
By placing quotation marks around the particular phrase you are searching for, you will be able to narrow down your search further.
University and Other Institutional Search Engines
In addition to logging on at home, you can usually get permission to log on to most university search engines and the search engines of other specialized institutions, such as historical societies or museums. Public library Internet facilities are free. However, in order to have the privilege of using a university or institution's resources, you need to log on directly from the university or the special institution. Often, you may have to pay a small fee or make an arrangement with the staff beforehand. Nonetheless, if you can arrange to have this privilege, it's more than worth it. Using a university or specialized institutional search engine allows you to preview in-depth, academic sources that are grouped by subject matter according to precise topics. These sites provide highly detailed information rather than the broad base of generalized knowledge that you can get from the websites listed previously. Many times, university websites and private collections provide abstracts or a summary of articles on a particular topic as well as the material itself. In addition, university websites often include a reference number that allows you to order the microfiche or printed version of an article available in their collection.
Different Types of University Search Engines
Like public libraries, many universities subscribe to comprehensive search engines that contain vast amounts of information. Several of the most common search engines to which universities frequently subscribe are:
- EBSCOhost (www.EBSCO.com)—a large database of full text articles with over 6,200 journals that are indexed and 5,000 journals in full text. Topics include the arts and sciences, business, health, and newspapers.
- LexisNexis (www.LexisNexis.com)—a search engine that offers full texts from magazine and newspaper articles addressing general news, business, and legal topics.
- The Periodicals Contents Index (http://pcift.chadwyck.com)—an index that provides full texts from thousands of journals in the humanities and social sciences.
- ProQuest Direct Index (http://ProQuest. umi.com)—an index that provides full texts of journals and newspapers on all topics, including business.
In short, you should have no trouble finding materials on your topic—no matter what your topic or inquiry might be. Remember, it always pays to ask a university or institutional staff member for his or her help and guidance. Each institution will have different resources and procedures, but once again, most staff members are eager to assist you and provide you with any tips that they can.
Using the Internet is a quick and easy method of gathering information. You can begin on your own and get a lot of material by simply typing your subject matter into one of the search engines. The ten sites listed above should provide you with a solid basis of knowledge and sources. To obtain more specialized or in-depth materials, it often pays to have privileges at a university or other cultural institution. Try to make arrangements to do so in advance so that you will have the most diverse and unique sources available for your work.
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