The Internet has an enormous quantity of information, with thousands of newsgroups and billions of web pages. The two questions that face any information seeker are, (1) How can I find what I want? and (2) How can I know that what I find is any good? This article treats the first question. A companion article, “Evaluating Internet Research Sources,” treats the second. Through the use of a little creativity, some patience, and a few search engines, you will be able to find just about anything you want. Many of the search tools and tool types mentioned in this article are available at “World Wide Web Research Tools.”
Let me say just a brief word or two on each of these items (and then I will go into detail later). “A little creativity” means simply that you must be able to generate some synonyms (words or phrases similar in meaning to each other) for the idea or topic you are searching for. “Some patience” means that you must remember that when you search a library collection, you must plan to spend more than five minutes looking in the card catalog or on the shelves. People who say, “There is nothing on the Internet about my topic,” are often those who sit down in front of the computer, type one phrase into one search engine and find nothing relevant. If you are willing to spend an hour looking around, however, you will almost certainly be well rewarded. Lastly, “a few search engines” means that you must use a variety of tools to find what you want.