What is the Web?

The terms Web, World Wide Web (www), and Internet are generally used interchangeably to describe the enormous amount of electronic information stored on computer networks throughout the world.  Navigating the Web effectively may seem a little daunting to newcomers.  Finding useful information on the Web as quickly as possible from the many possibilities requires familiarity with the search tools and resources available, and an understanding of search strategies and language.  The following helpful hints are provided to assist you in finding what you are looking for.

Where to Get Help

If you are have not used, or are not very familiar with the Web, you could try searching “how to use the Web” when connected to the Internet.  There is plenty of free information and tutorials to get you started in searching and using the Web.  Alternatively, the professional staff in your public library, information service or resource centre will be able to help you develop suitable strategies and suggest sources to try.  Also, many Community Centres, Community Colleges and Local Councils run training programs on basic Web and computer use which will get you searching and finding resources on the Web in no time!

How to Search the Web

There are a number of web search techniques that make it easier for you to locate the information you are looking for.  The methods you use depend on what information you are looking for.  For example, you could be looking for information on a topic area such as “Waste Management”, or a document titled “How to manage waste material”.  You may have a hardcopy of a document and be looking for an electronic copy and know details such as the publication date, ISBN or Author.

The fastest ways to find what you are looking for on the Web is by using a unique ‘search term’.  Using the following details can help you find the correct search results.

  • Names: are there any unusual names, including places, organisations, or acronyms?
  • Titles: such as book titles, research papers or other document titles.
  • Numbers: such as an ISBN or ISSN, product number, telephone number, publishing date (if the number has punctuation in it, then put it in quotes).
  • Quotations: do you have any exact quotes from the content you’re searching for?
  • Phrases: choose a portion of text.  The longer the phrase, the fewer matches and more specific the results.  Up to seven words is usually adequate.  You can search for a particular phrase on most search engines by placing it in “double quotes".

Narrowing Down Search Results

To narrow down your search results, think about the words that might be used to describe your topic, including:

  • similar or associated words
  • words which should be excluded
  • words describing related ideas

To refine your search you could:

  • Try question or answer phrases, such as “how to build an electric fence” or “the light bulb was invented by”.  Questions generally return information written in a tutorial style since explanations are often prefaced with their question.
  • Use AND / OR to include numerous key words in your search.  For example; water AND (greywater OR reuse) AND toilets.  This will return results that relate to water and toilets that include the term ‘greywater’ or ‘reuse’.
  • Use the minus sign to exclude particular keywords from your search results.  For example; cars  -Holden, will return all car websites that do not contain the word Holden

Things to Remember

  • While the Web is a great place to start to find out information, it may not provide all the resources you will need for your research.  For some topics you may need to use printed materials or other media.
  • The Web is also a great starting point to find out about different perspectives and ideas, but some information may be incorrect or unreliable.  Much information on the Web may not have been peer reviewed or critically analysed by professionals in that field.  Contact a reputable local professional rather than relying only on Web resources.
  • Be aware of commercial businesses and advocacy groups promoting their information and products as being peer reviewed or credible information.  There may be other interests involved.



Copyright 2011 HCCREMS