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Searching for the Grail?

6. Go to the source

Some of the best sites on the Internet are not indexed by the search engines. Some people have called this information, the "Deep Internet." It pays to go to such Web sites and search them directly if they would be the leading source of information on a particular topic. It is one of the reasons we need media specialists - information mediation - leading us to the "right stuff."

"Finding the Deep Internet When You Need It"


Colorado Mine

It turns out that because many public agencies and news media Web sites do not permit access (perhaps for security reasons) to the spiders of search engines, their contents often elude the search engine's efforts as well as our own search attempts.

We shall call such (often valuable) sites self-contained sites. The Deep Internet!

 Workshop Activity:

Explore some examples:

1) Visit ERIC to explore the huge collection of educational research documents housed at ERIC ( AskERIC Homepage). If you perform a search for "middle school guidance" on the free Internet, you are unlikely to find much worth reading, while ERIC provides hundreds of abstracts of research articles from several decades. Try a search of your own.

2) Looking for news of current events? Try a search of one of these sites for an issue or event which intrigues you.

If you know that the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times have all been giving careful attention to a current scandal, you may achieve better results by starting your search at their Web sites rather than wasting time with a global search engine which might overlook their offerings.

3) What is the best way to identify good sources or Web sites to visit?

  • Make a list of organizations most likely to care enough about your question, issue or topic to gather and share information about it. Visit their Web sites and see what they have to offer.
  • Consult one or more of the printed Internet guides which often suggest the best sites for various subject areas such as Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress).
  • Take advantage of an index or directory such as Yahoo at http://dir.yahoo.com/ or Google at http://www.google.com/dirhp to see which sites offer information on a particular subject.
  • Heed the good advice of folks like Kathy Schrock and others who have searched for the best sites and saved you lots of trouble and time.
  • Ask a good librarian!

See what kinds of "self-contained" sites you can find related to your question.

7. Be discrete

After you have conducted several browsing searches, you may begin to focus your search more sharply by adding key words to your search in order to limit hits to pages distinctly relevant to your inquiry.

Careful selection and addition of key words which are discriminating, distinguishing and distinctive, puts the spotlight on just those discrete pages which match your interests. Your key words differentiate, separate and reserve only the best pages.

How different would your results be with each of the following words?

  • owl
  • spotted owl
  • marbled owl
  • murrelet

The more you particularize your search, the better your results. Adding particulars and specifics excludes all pages which do not contain those items. The advantage is sharp focus. The danger is bypassing, missing or overlooking key data.

Sometimes it pays to alternate between narrowing and broadening. After zeroing in with some particulars, zoom back out and try some different particulars.

This may also be a good time to use wild cards, truncation, the logical operator "OR" and "exact phrase" syntax.

  • wild cards and truncation - allows you to place a symbol such as an asterisk (*) at the end of a word's root, so that your search will return all variants of that word and protect your from being too sharply in focus.
  • the logical operator "OR" makes it possible to search for a list of synonyms so pages will not be eliminated just because you have been a bit too particular.
  • "exact phrase" syntax is helpful when you know exactly what you want and you are sure how the words will appear.

 Workshop Activity:

Go to Google's Advanced Search and try out this strategy on your research question.

What words should you try?

How might a thesaurus prove helpful?

Describe in your learning log how this strategy worked for you.


Next search strategies

 Credits: Icons are from Jay Boersma.
Other drawings, photographs and graphics are by Jamie McKenzie.

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