The World Wide Web is an increasingly important source of information to complement what you find in books and journals. As it has grown, it has become easier to find lots of "stuff," and harder to find good information on the Web.
Keep one theme in mind when searching for information on the Web:
No one is in charge.
Anyone can put a homepage on the Web. They can move it, delete it, change it at any time. They can also say anything they want. Looking carefully and critically at the information you find is essential.
Remember that the Libraries' sources covered up to this point are not part of the "open Web." You will not find very many scholarly articles, books, etc. using Web search engines. Use Web sources to supplement library sources, not to replace them.
To help you start searching and to help you find good starting points for your searches, the University Libraries' staff maintains lists of information sources, called Subject Guides, linked to the University's curriculum. There are also links to University of Hartford Reference Guides which cross disciplines, providing information similar to that in the print reference collection — directories, statistical sources, dictionaries and encyclopedias, maps, etc. We suggest using them as starting points for your Web research.
Below are links to some of the Libraries' Web resource lists.
You will want to explore beyond the Libraries' lists to find specific pieces of information for your research. To do so, you need to use search engines. These are tools which serve, in some ways, as indexes for material on the Web. No single search engine covers the whole Web, so be prepared to use several.
Search engines can be divided into two types. First are those that are not, strictly speaking, search engines, but are subject catalogs which gather Web pages and sort them into categories. An example of a selective catalog is the IPL2.
The IPL2 was formed in 2010 by merging the collections of the Internet Public Library (IPL) and the Librarians' Internet Index (LII). It is unusual because it's generated by people, not by machines. The sources it links to have been evaluated. It is, therefore, a more reliable source of information from the "open web."
The opening screen presents icons for locating resources by subject, format, demographic, or by browsing special collections.
Clicking the "Resources by Subject" icon brings up a new page of subjects and their related topics. Continue narrowing your subject with each succeeding screen, until you find a list of sites which may be useful to you.
You can also use IPL2 as a search engine. The search box is at the top of the page. Remember, the IPL2 is a small, selective collection of sites. It's a great starting point for doing research. Use it to help you find good information on a topic. Other search engines are created by "smart agents" or "robots" — software that goes out looking for new pages on the Web.
A true "search engine" uses these smart agents to find new Web pages to add to its collection. When you use a search engine, you are not really searching the Web. Rather, you are searching the collection of Web sites found by that engine's smart agents. That is one reason why you frequently need to use more than one search engine.
Some search engines have advanced features which allow you to search using the same Boolean operators you have been using in the databases. One example is AltaVista. You can enter a search statement in AltaVista's advanced search. You may need to narrow your search even further, however. Notice that you can focus further by specifying language, date, etc. Ask a librarian for help.
AltaVista, like most other search engines, lists your results according to how often your search words appear on the page or in the hidden descriptive information (called metadata) for the page. Web authors load up commonly searched words in the metadata, so that their pages are high on the list. AltaVista (and some other search engines) also sells placement on results lists. These purchased placements are identified as such, but you need to be careful.
Google, one of the biggest and most popular search engines, lists sites according to how often other pages link to them. Thus, widely known (and probably higher quality, more relevant) sites are listed first. Google's ranking system makes it very useful for finding better quality sites. It does not use Boolean operators; it puts an "and" between terms (unless you put quotation marks around a phrase). Google does not have as much searching flexibility of AltaVista, although its Advanced Search allows you to focus to a certain degree.
There are a number of specialized search engines that focus on finding information of a particular type or in a particular field. Among them are:
- Google Scholar which finds information on academic websites, journals, etc. that are open to everybody. Note: Google Scholar will take you to sites that allow you to purchase copies of articles, etc. DO NOT spend money on these. Remember that Interlibrary Services can get copies for you, usually for free. If you are on campus, you will frequently see links to the University of Hartford site. You may be able to find free, full text or submit Interlibrary Loan requests by following these links. (Google Scholar is in beta. Its appearance and content are being tested and are subject to change)
- Scirus searches websites and/or articles in the sciences. Again, use the Interlibrary Services, Copy Request Form to get copies of articles you find using Scirus.
- "Meta" search engines allow you to search several search engines at once. This can be very useful for a narrow, specific topic. It can be overwhelming if you are looking for more general information.
Use AltaVista to find a Website on your topic. Print out the first page of your AltaVista results. Then choose one of the sites listed, go to it, and print out the first page of the site. (You will be printing out two pages — one from AltaVista and one from a website.)