Canadian Plastics

Internet sites and business issues relevant to Canadian processors and moldmakers (February 01, 2000)

Search Engines: It'S Hit and Miss at BestA web search is not always the most efficient way to look for information on the Internet, says a professional researcher (this is what librarians have become ...

February 1, 2000   By Cindy Macdonald



Search Engines: It’S Hit and Miss at Best

A web search is not always the most efficient way to look for information on the Internet, says a professional researcher (this is what librarians have become in the Internet age). I learned a lot from a recent seminar given by Bonnie Burwell, professional researcher, and would like to pass on to you some key points about searching the Internet.

Let’s start with a bit of a primer on tools for searching the Web. There are two types of tools: subject directories and search engines. Most current search sites combine a bit of both — subject directories and search engines — as well as news, weather, horoscopes, on-line shopping, etc. The sites have generically become known as search engines.

Subject directories are created by real people who organize websites into categories within a hierarchical structure. They are generally useful for finding credible, major sites related to a topic. Yahoo (1) began life as a subject directory and still has an extensive directory. To use a subject directory, you pick a topic from the list (Science, for example), then pick a sub-topic (Chemistry), then a further sub-topic (Plastics and polymers), until you reach the subject you are searching for.

Search engines, in contrast, use computer programs to search the entire web for pages that contain the search term. Altavista (2) and Excite (3) are essentially search engines. They tend to return vast lists of pages ranked by relevancy. Relevancy is determined by each engine’s own criteria.

Meta sites combine the powers of multiple search engines, and can save time by simultaneously having many engines search your query. Dogpile (4) is a current favorite of this type.

For my own purposes, I compared a few search sites to help me decide which to use. The results of my highly subjective, non-scientific comparison are listed below. All I did was a simple search for “nanocomposite”.

My conclusion is that if you are trying to thoroughly research a topic, don’t trust just one search engine, and give the subject directories a try. If you are simply browsing, experiment with a few search sites, and you’ll probably find one that generally meets your needs. As a starting point, both Netscape and Excite browsers have a button that will quickly give you a choice of several search sites.

You don’t need professional help to search the Internet, but patience is a necessity.

(1) yahoo.ca

(2) altavista.ca

(3) excite.com

(4) dogpile.com

(5) infoseek.com

REVAMPED ASSOCIATION SITES

Check out CPIA’s new sites for info on vinyl, recycling and other issues. (6)

(6) www.plastics.ca; www.plastics.ca/vinyl;

www.plastics.ca/epic


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