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Finding Information Online

Some Introductory Links

The Web is really a very intuitive place. But I don't want to confuse you by assuming you know anything. Let's start, therefore, with a very basic site, webmonkey Web Intro. The webmonkey site is a fantastic place to learn everything from the most basic to most advanced details of the web. Open this site in another window using the method described below.

For more goodies, visit Sherlock's Web Tips (fortnightly).

If you are a bit puzzled about settings, take a look at Texas Net's site on Common settings and login info. They also have excellent explanations of Setting up Windows 95/98, Setting up Linux, Setting up web pages, Modem info & links, Tech Tips - Q&A, and a really excellent set of pages called Internet Basics.

Using Multiple Browser Windows

Okay, now let's get past the basics. The first essential tip to start using is multiple browser windows. So push your cursor to the top left corner of this window and open the File menu. The first item is New. Click on it and a new menu appears. The first item is Navigator Window. (The sequence is almost exactly the same in MS Internet Explorer). Click on it and a new window will open. (Note that Netscape opens the second window in your homepage; Explorer opens the window to the same location you are currently in in your first window).

Look at the bottom of your screen (I am assuming you are in MS Windows 95/98). You will notice that you now have TWO browsers open. This has several advantages. First, you can read my notes and do what I am suggesting in the second window. This is done by clicking back and forth on the two windows icons at the bottom of your screen. Another method of changing windows is holding down the Alt key and hitting the Tab key to scroll through programs which are open). Try these techniques now.

Second, as you open things you can open them in other windows by RIGHT clicking on the link and asking that the link be opened in a new window (this is the first choice in the Navigator menu, but further down in the Explorer menu).You can also open a link in a new window by pressing down on the SHIFT key when you left click on the link. By doing this you can start several links at once so that you are reading one while another is opening. This saves time. It also keeps you from having to hit the BACK button and wait for the original page to open itself again. This is REALLY time-saving if you are looking at a slow-loading page.

For the rest of this page, use the multiple window method so that you can explore in one window and continue reading this lesson in the other.

The LRC Homepage

Now that you have a second window open, go to the top and click on the white line called Location. It will immediately highlight the URL (Internet address, or Universal Resource Locator). If you type while the URL is highlighted, it will disappear and your typing will take its place. Type in the following address (no need to type the http:// part):

This will take you to our District's homepage. Click on the link to Palo Alto College. Notice that the address you are going to appears at the bottom of your screen and then the status of the transfer tells you how the page is loading.

Now that you are at Palo Alto College, click on the Library link. Notice now that the URL at the top indicates the link sequence that you have followed.

You should now be at the PAC library's homepage ( Let's do some exploring.

This page is set up for your convenience in doing research and finding information. You will want to access this page often, so let's try setting it as a bookmark. If you are in Netscape, click on Bookmarks, then click on the first item in the menu: Add Bookmark. Click on Bookmark again and you should see the item at the end of the list. If you are in Explorer, click on Favorites, then click on Add. You should get the same results.

You should also make either the LRC research page ( or the course homepage ( the homepage default for your machine. This means that this address is where your browser opens when you first turn it on. In Internet Explorer, click on the TOOLS button at the top. Then click on INTERNET OPTIONS. In the window which opens be sure you are in the GENERAL tab. In the Home Page area click on USE CURRENT.

In Netscape Navigator, click on EDIT, then PREFERENCES. In the left side of the window which opens, highlight NAVIGATOR. In the right side, under Home Page, click USE CURRENT PAGE.

Web Subject INDEX

Okay, let's start at the top left of this page with the Web Subject INDEX. Click on that link.

Notice that you are now in an alphabetical index of the Web. Not EVERYTHING on the Web, but a selection of links aimed specifically at what community college students might be looking for. It is set up alphabetically both for simplicity of access and also so that you can browse... So browse.

As you start to browse, notice that you can jump to different parts of the alphabet by clicking on the letter links at the top of the page. Try one, then click on BACK.

Notice next that there is always an event for the month listed at the top. Again, as an educational institution, this is a great way to get people interested in various topics. Click on the link (it's Black History Month right now) and see what you find. Then click on the BACK button at the top left of your screen.

Notice next that at the top of this list is a box with a link to "newest sites." This is to help people keep up with new and interesting stuff that we find. Click on it and see what you think of the newest sites. Try one or two previous issues of this site (linked at the bottom of the page). Then click on BACK until you get back to the Web INDEX page.

Now, start browsing through the INDEX. Notice all the extremely useful sites that you may need at some point -- 800 numbers, addresses and phone numbers, almanacs, biographies, bookstores, computers, current events, and much more. Notice, also, that all the disciplines taught at our college are represented.

Web SEARCH Engines

Okay, let's jump back to the LRC homepage. Click on Bookmarks (or Favorites in Explorer) and click on the link.

Let's look now at "Web SEARCH Engines." Click on the link.

Notice that you have several categories of search engines. Let's read about that first by clicking on the link at the top of this page called "Searching--How to & Info."

Click on the top left item in the table, "How to Search." This short essay explains the different categories of search engines and how to use each of them.

While you are there, you may want to try some of the other links, or read through the rest of the material there. Then click on BACK to get back to the search engine page.

Let's try a keyword search engine first. Click on the GOOGLE link. When the page loads, you will notice a blank, white line. This is typical of every search engine. This is where you enter your search terms. First you must click on the line so that you have a cursor. Then type the keyword(s) you are seeking. Hit ENTER or click on the SEARCH button.

I typed in the phrase "tropical fish" and got 157,751 documents or "hits." You can usually find the number of hits right above the results.

What are the results? You have gotten back a list of links. Each link is listed with additional information. The task before you is to try out those links which look most useful.

What you do is click on links. Explore them. Then click on BACK and try another link, working your way down the list. This is called "surfing." Remember to RIGHT click on the links and open them in second and third and fourth browser windows. When you are done with those links, instead of clicking on BACK, just hit the x at the top right corner of the window and close it.

Every search engine lists links in a different manner. Some list in order of their importance in the opinion of the people who created the list. Others list links in some format trying to get as close as possible to your search definition. Others list links based on how often they are accessed--the more often accessed the higher on the list. Many search engines list links based on whether those links will pay them for a higher position. (Oh well, we are the center of capitalism!)

SO, one thing you will want to do is try out different search engines, reading about their criteria and trying some searches. Choose two or three engines that give you the sort of results that you will want in the future and then keep using them. As you get more familiar with their search methods you will become very proficient in searching.

One thing to keep in mind is that no single search engine is able to search more than 20% of the Internet. So you should probably use several engines to search a topic you are seriously checking out.

Boolean Logic

As you search, you will want to begin using Boolean logic. This is very simple, but the term is impressive and good to use at parties to wow your friends.

Boolean logic is simply the use of the words AND, OR, and NOT to narrow your searches. For instance, I searched for "tropical fish" and found WAY too many results--157,751 documents or "hits."

I now try another search using "tropical fish and Mexico." This narrows my search and I get 29,483 hits. That's still too much to look at, so I narrow my search further: "tropical fish and Mexico and photos"... I get 5,769 hits.

I notice that many of the hits are snorkling. I'm not interested in that sport, so I try "tropical fish and Mexico not snorkling"... Now I'm down to 151 documents. MUCH more reasonable!

Try this on two or three of your favorite subjects. Don't forget to try different search engines.

Other Hompage Links

Now, jump back to the LRC homepage and try the various links within the table. If you have any questions, please email me.

Research Databases

Finally, let's take a look at the RESEARCH TOOLS at the bottom of the homepage.

Notice that there is a little arrow to the side. Click it and a whole list of research sites will open up. The first one, ProQuest, is one of the best, so let's try that. Click on it to highlight it. Now click on the GO button to the right of the list.

You are taken to a page that gives you a choice. If you are on campus, click on that link and you will not need a password.

If you are not on campus, email me and I will give you the password. Please do not give this to anyone else. Your tuition fee is paying partially to rent this database. If unauthorized people start using it your fee might go up.

Follow the links until you get a blank line to enter your search. This works just like the search engines -- you can use Boolean logic here as well.

Your results will look a little different since you are using a specialized database. Notice the indicators to the left of each article and the key at the bottom of your screen. You will probably want to look just at full text articles. Be sure to figure out how to recognize them by using the key at the bottom of the screen.

Try some searches and see what you find. Try out all the different buttons and whistles. This is a good place to start accumulating citations and notes for your term paper.

Making a Site Your Homepage

If you find the LRC homepage useful enough, you may want to make it your computer's homepage... To do this in Netscape, click on your bookmark to go to the homepage. Now click on the URL at the top. Once it is highlighted, press CTRL+C. This copies what is highlighted into memory.

Now, go to the top of the screen and click on Edit. The last item in the menu is Preferences. Click on it and you get a new screen. In the middle is an area titled HOME PAGE. The URL that is in the white line must be replaced with what you want. So, highlight it with your mouse, then press CTRL+V which will paste the URL you have in memory into this highlighted location. Now just click on okay.

Try it out by going to any other URL and then clicking on the HOME button at the top. It should instantly take you back to the LRC homepage. Congratulations!

If you have questions, or need more information--OR, if you find a really great site that I haven't mentioned and you would like me to add--please, write me a note.

Here are some additional readings I have added later:

Online Research Tips

Creating Effective Library Assignments [Okay, this is for the teacher. But as a student you need to know what to expect, as well as what you have a right to in the process. -Colby]
How to Research a Topic
Electronic Resources
Using Search Engines
Boolean Searching
Advanced Search Techniques
Search Like a Pro
Evaluating Information
Copyright and Plagiarism
Citing Resources
Printing and Downloading

All About Cookies

NEXT: Finding Information Elsewhere

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Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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