Sub-module 2D  On-line searching

Learning goals.
Define web searching and differentiate it from scientific literature searches.

You are all familiar with "open" web sites. For example if you want the scoop on the North Carolina Tarheels, you click on and you get the latest information. The site is "free." You do not need a password or pay anything to visit there. That site has advertising which presumably pays for the costs of the site. Other sites are "closed." If you know the URL (web address, such as the goheels address above) you can get to the "top"of a closed site, but to go any further, you need to input a password, or get your credit card out.

You probably have all used a search engine. I use Google, if I don't think the topic is in the Font-of-all-knowledge, Wikipedia, there are many other search engines. There is some advantage to using one engine because you become familiar with its search syntax. Search engines often find many sites and then rank the sites by their conformance to the search terms, then present them in that order. Often the search engine returns hundreds or thousands of "hits."

How do search engines search? Read That page is written from the standpoint of web technicians who are trying to write their web sites such that they pop up when people are searching for the goods or services that the site wants to sell. It raises the issue of how "deep" the search engines go. If you go to the Tarheels site homepage, you will see a number of articles that you can in turn click on. Some are cross-references to other publicly available sites, but others are articles written by the staff. If you do a web search, you are likely to find keywords that are associated with the homepage or top page of the Tarheels site. Most search engines will not find the articles written by the goheels staff that are referred to by the homepage, because the search engine only scans the top page. There are many tricks web designers use to cause their sites to pop to the top of the list of found web sites.

I will not spend much time on particular web search engines, they all have their own syntax and help screens to get you moving.

Here is a site with information on "scholarly search engines" and other information . For technical work, today, most professionals search on pertinent technical topics associated with their work. The limitations of web searches and subsequent uses of the resulting material in technical work are many. The authority and competence of the authors of the web articles is generally unknown to you. There are many organizations that are espousing particular political and economic viewpoints. Some sites change data regularly, an article you reference or rely on one day may not be on the web the next day. Here is a site with some general information on evaluating information: Critical Evaluation of Information Sources.

The greatest disadvantage of web searching is that most technical journals are not on the web. Their data is part of a "closed' web site, or it is not on the web at all. Scientific journals stay in business by subscriptions from individuals and libraries and in some cases advertising. They need you, or your library, to buy the journal. On the other hand, most of the scientific journals of interest are not for profit. Their primary purpose is to disseminate knowledge. So, the compromise is this: The journals publish an abstract and place the abstract in one or several data bases. Interested persons search the data base, read the abstract, then purchase the full article, if it interests them. One more glitch in the process is that these data bases are often not free either. Today libraries subscribe to these data bases. In a later module we will discuss this further and I will give you the data to use UAF's library data bases and interlibrary loan process.

End of Submodule

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