This work is in the process of revision. This file may change again soon.
Once you are using the World Wide Web, you should have some strategies in mind to search and some information literacy to judge the value of what you find.
TACTIC: Know the nature of Internet information and the major keyword and subject searching methods on the Web.
Finding information on the Internet is fairly easy, as long as you realize what you are searching and can judge what you find. Remember that the Internet is not an edited, ordered, or unified information package like a set of encyclopedias. The Internet supports a wide range of human communication, and this communication reflects all the foibles, intelligence, stupidity, wisdom, aggressiveness, kindness, malevolence, and chaos of human life.
You can think of the Internet more as a vibrant city than as an ordered set of books. As you go about a city in your daily life, you don't believe everything you hear, read, or see. You are wary of strangers and seek out trusted places to do business, shop, or make friends. Have this same kind of sensibility on the Internet.
You can follow these ideas to improve your information literacy in using Internet information:
- What is the source of the information? What are the source's qualifications, motivations, and likely biases? Be sophisticated and wary about what information sources you consult. Start with trusted information sources. For example, a large public library or the US Library of Congress have Web sites that might be good starting point to locate information.
- What degree of reliability and accuracy do you need for your information? Do you need information from an expert in the field? Or are you just looking for ideas? For example, if you are getting ideas for your garden, you might want to consult an expert for information on chemicals and fertilizers. In this case, try the Web sites of major gardening magazines. If you want ideas about what flowers to plant, you might find a fellow gardener's site serves your needs perfectly.
- What is the quality and value of the information? If you are satisfied with the reputation of the source, what can you do with the information? Is the information current, accurate, and well-organized so that it is useful to you? All of this will depend on the information. Current temperatures in your city? That information has to be very recent (like within the past hour) for it to be useful to you. Ideas for new kinds of mulch? A Web page that is a year or two old might be just fine.
- Have you checked out other information sources? Use multiple strategies to find information and compare information from multiple sites. You may find reputable and knowledgeable sites like libraries or specialized magazines recommend certain sites repeatedly. You can compare suggestions from several sites to make your final decision. In a way, you have to be like a good journalist on the Internet: locate several reliable sources.
You should have some sites in mind to help you search the Internet subject, keyword, and reference information.
The best keyword and subject search engines change all the time. I keep an online list of what I think are the top resources for searching. For links to these sites, check out my lists of Keyword, Subject, and Lookup resources.
I frequently use http://www.yahoo.com and http://www.altavista.com for subject and keyword searches. I often use http://www.infospace.com for looking up phone numbers, addresses, maps, and a variety of directory and geographical-based information.
TACTIC: Establish a routine of communication and monitoring information.
Once you are comfortable with using the Internet for email and the Web for information, you can establish routines that benefit your life. You can search the Web regularly for news, shopping, employment, education, or your hobby needs. If you have an email address, be sure to check your account a couple of times per week for incoming mail.
But be wary of excessive use--don't let the Internet take over your life. Don't use the Web as a kind of mindless stimulation like television. Check your email or find what you need on the Web. Then get out and do something in the real world.