Introduction to Mastering Online Research - Writer's Digest

Introduction to Mastering Online Research

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I’m glad I live in the age of the internet. I’ve become so accustomed to researching any and every subject that I no longer can imagine my life without it. I pursue serious and frivolous research on the Web, I shop, I look up addresses and phone numbers and old friends. I keep up with news and with history. I’m convinced that internet access saved my mother’s life, because I was able to look up her atypical symptoms of a heart attack on a medical website and rush her to the emergency room. The World Wide Web was the greatest advance of the twentieth century, and it keeps on improving.

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Writing this book gives me an opportunity to share the techniques and tips that I’ve learned over many years of working on the internet, running thousands of searches and analyzing websites, search results, and hyperlinks. Much of what I learned as far back as ten years ago still applies, but everything runs faster and better now. It’s a great time for you to learn how to navigate the world of cyberspace.

This book will help you to master the skills and shortcuts of online research so your searches will be satisfying and the challenges enjoyable. You’ll learn to love the thrill of the chase after pieces of information that somebody out there knows and you don’t.

If you’ve never done much more than enter a search word or two in the Google or Yahoo! search box, you’re in for a treat. You can find just about anything out there with the right search tools. And you’ll learn practical methods to evaluate the websites you find for reliability, timeliness, relevance to your search, and other parameters.

In the New York Times on November 6, 2006, an article by Tom Zeller Jr. appeared concerning the internet pranksters who manipulated search results on the major search engine websites just prior to the U.S. election, in order to bring up certain politicians’ websites when users searched for words such as “miserable failure.” The use of the internet for political campaigning was a new phenomenon at the levels it reached at that time. But what was shocking to me was the report that ordinary internet users remain incredibly naïve about the results from search engines. “Numerous studies have shown that precious few sleuths go beyond the first page of search results. ‘If it’s not on the first page, it might as well be invisible,’” the newspaper quoted Danny Sullivan, editor of the online Search Engine Watch, as saying.

The article went on to state that the Nielsen Norman Group, which surveys internet behavior, found in 2005 that fewer than 1 percent of searchers used advanced search options. Even scarier was the statistic from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that “only 38 percent of searchers were aware of a distinction between paid and unpaid results among search returns.”

Once you’ve delved into this book and practiced your skills online, you’ll be part of that intelligent, sophisticated, and effective 1 percent of internet searchers. Welcome!

Find out more about Mastering Online Research.