Internet citizenship

The World Wide Web (known as "WWW', "Web" or "W3") is the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human knowledge.

Drawn from 'About the World Wide Web', by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Finding stuff on the Web

There are some fantastic research resources on the World Wide Web. There is also a lot of junk. The two different techniques that you will use to separate the two:


Entering search terms and reviewing results provided by a full text search facility.


Moving from a general term or subject area to a more specific area, often by following a tree structure.

Searching the World Wide Web

On a clear disk, you can seek forever.

Denning, according to some sources

There are three main search engines that you might want to use:

"Google is the world's largest search engine and through its partnerships with America Online, Netscape and others, responds to more search queries than any other service online." Google company profile
Yahoo! was "the first large scale directory of the Internet, now a major portal offering search engine results, customizable content, chatrooms, free e-mail, clubs" and more. Yahoo! corporate description
[Dogpile] "chases down the best results from the Internet's top search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN, Ask Jeeves, About, MIVA, LookSmart and more." About Dogpile

There are a host of specialised search engines, too. You can do specific searches for pictures, video, movie information, books, things for sale, people, businesses, news items, academic and research information and more. You will often get more precise results from a specific search engine than you will from a general search engine.

Remember that no search engine is ever completely comprehensive or completely up to date. By the nature of the Web, they cannot be. They do try hard, though.

Better search techniques

Each search engine offers helpful advice on how to construct a good search. Fifteen minutes spent reading this advice will save you hours in wasted search time.

Most people type in one or two words, hit the button and hope. This approach often returns nothing at all or thousands of results, most of which are irrelevant.

Here are a couple of tricks that I like.

Proper nouns

Proper nouns make great search terms. Names of people (Jonathan O'Donnell), places (Melbourne, Australia), publications, (Oxford English Reference Dictionary) or things (Apollo 11) are very good ways to find specific information.

Specify more than one word

All the examples above consist of multiple words. You will get a much more specific result if you use multiple words. Melbourne Australia, for example, will cut out all references to Melbourne in Florida.

Stringing things together

Even better, you can use quotation marks to make sure that your words appear next to one another. Searching for "Jonathan O'Donnell" will only find pages about people called Jonathan O'Donnell. That is much better than Jonathan O'Donnell which will find pages about Jonathan Appleseed and the O'Donnell clan, among others.

Ask me a question

Sometimes it helps to phrase your query as a question. For example, Who was the first person to walk on the Moon? will give more precise results than first moon walk.

Subtracting things you don't want

A minus sign (-) indicates that a word must not appear in the results. If you are searching for a recipe for Potato and Leek Soup, but you are alergic to onions, you might type potato leek soup recipe -onion. None of the results will contain the word "onion".

Look past the first page

Most people only look at the first page of results. You might do better to have a quick peek at page two and three. Often there are pleasant surprises there. After all, the results list has been created by a computer, and computers can be pretty dumb sometimes.

These techniques can be combined. If I am looking for a table tennis club in the Latrobe valley, I might type Is there a "table tennis" club in the "Latrobe valley"? -university

A query like this will give me less than 100 results, which means that I can check all the pages to gain information (club names, addresses, phone numbers, timetables, etc) from a variety of sources.

Searching a specific site

Once you have found a good Web site, you might want to search for other information on that particular Web site. The site might provide a site search just for that site. Look for a search box, or a link to "Search".

If there isn't a site search, or it doesn't work very well, try putting the Web site address into your search engine, with the term 'site:' in front of it.

On Yahoo!, Google or Dogpile, you might search for finding stuff on the Web, This would only find results on a site with the address or

You can also use the minus sign (-) to eliminate sites from your results. For example, if you want to find information about John Howard, but you don't want government information, you could add to your search. That would eliminate any results from Australian government Web sites, whose addresses usually end with "".

Searching within a specific page

Once you have found a specific page that looks useful, you can use Find within the page. On most Web browsers, look under the [Edit] menu to choose [Find]. This will allow you to search for a word (or words) on the specific Web page that you are looking at.

Learning how to search.

Librarians are wonderful people. They really want to help you find stuff. The librarians at RMIT (Mike, Isa, Gwen, Catherine and others) have developed some cool tools to help you learn how to search more effectively.

Have a look at their tutorial on searching the Internet for an example of what they have done. Their tutorials are much better than mine, and I highly recommend them.

World Wide Web Virtual Library

The World Wide Web Virtual Library is an attempt to catalogue useful authoritative web sites. If it has a catalogue for your area, it will probably be excellent.

The Virtual Library is a distributed responsibility WWW cataloguing project where each topic, or division, is maintained by volunteers -- experts in the field they are maintaining.

From the 'Database of the WWW Virtual Library', by the World Wide Web Virtual Library.

Burrowing through the WWW Virtual Library

The WWW Virtual Library provides a subject catalogue, which you may burrow into to find areas related to your topic.

Searching the WWW Virtual Library

It also provides a search facility, so that you may search for areas related to your topic. You might like to try both and compare the ease of use, feeling of control and time that it took you to find something useful.

Please note: You might draw a blank. Not all topics are covered by the Virtual Library or the World Wide Web. As well as developing a search strategy, you need to develop a strategy to stop searching.