The Internet provides access to a wealth of information for teachers, researchers and scholars. The challenge is to quickly find relevant information and not be distracted by myriads of useless information.
While this blog focuses to some extent on using Google, there are many other search engines that can help you find information. A few are listed near the end of this blog.
I'm sure most of us type in "Google" and then in the search field, type in a few words to search for. Provided with the little information I provide, it is quite amazing what Google can come up with! This often works to find what I need, but what am I to do when this simple method does not work? Here are a few ideas to try.
Google advanced search used to have a link on the Google search page, but it seems to have disappeared from there. Fortunately, the advanced search page still exists at: http://www.google.com/advanced_search. This page has many added options on it, such as the ability to search in just one website. If you are looking for a document on one website, you can copy or type the URL of the website into the line labeled "site or domain". Then type words that appear in the document into one of the fields labeled "Find pages with...". You can enter words that appear in the text of the document (or the title) or an exact phrase. If you have a printed copy of the document and want the digital version (pdf, doc, etc.), you could type an exact phrase from the document that would be unique to that document. If you can remember a few of the words that are unique to the document, type them into the field labeled: "all these words". This way, only documents with the exact words you want will appear. If you do not find the document on that website (the site or domain), you could search the whole Internet for the document and may find it on another website. You can also narrow your search with options such as searching by language, region or other factors.
Another useful way to search for articles, books and documents you may need for research purposes is to use Google Scholar: http://scholar.google.co.za. This service looks for academic articles, books, etc. Many books are partially available in this service. Google has scanned these books and many, but not all, of the pages are available for viewing. The service may give you just enough access to the book to answer your questions. If not, you will be able to make a more informed choice on if it is worthwhile trying to borrow a copy via a traditional library or even buying one. Searching on Google for the book title and the words "full text" may also help to find a text version of the book or article you need.
Open courseware is listed on many sites and this page gives an index of where to look: http://www.africaeducation.org/open_courseware.htm. Always remember to check the copyright notice of any course materials you plan to use. If it carries a Creative Commons License (like "CC-BY-SA"), it is OK to use. If it states "©" without showing the CC labels, you may be breaking a copyright law by re-using the content. For academic research, remember to always give proper references. Google Scholar has a "Cite" link under each item it finds for you. This should help a lot in creating all those citations you need for your bibliography.
There are many search engines and I add a few to give an idea:
Here is a list of search engines provided by Wikipedia:
Google offers a free course on advanced searching: http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com. This could help you develop skills that may be useful in studies, business or everyday life.
Submitted on 5 February 2014. First published on AfricaEducation.org.