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Darkbird18's Internet Information Research:Internet Search FAQ 1/2

Internet Search FAQ 1/2
( Part1 - Part2 )
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From: (Charlie Harris)
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Subject: Internet Search FAQ 1/2
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Summary: Part 1 of 2: This posting gives help for writers and others in using the Internet for research, giving suggestions as to which methods are best for different needs, and including worked examples.
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Internet Search FAQ

Part 1 of 2


Part 1

4.1 How Can I Find Specific files, text, multi-media or
4.2 How Can I Find Specific information?
4.3 How Can I Find More General Background Information?
8.1 How reliable is the Net?
8.2 What can I do about it?
8.3 How should Internet sources be cited?

Part 2

10. URLS FOR A RAINY DAY - useful links for research

This FAQ is available on the web at along
with an archive of changes.

It is updated and posted roughly the first weekend of each month,
circumstances permitting, to: misc.writing, alt.movies.independent,
alt.union.natl-writers, misc.writing.screenplays, alt.answers,
misc.answers and news.answers.

At the same time, any changes to the FAQ, including new resource
links, are posted to all except the *.news groups in a separate
message "Internet Search FAQ - What's New", to save users having to
download the entire FAQ each month just to find out what's been added.
This can also be found at

Keen searchers are urged to check this out regularly for new ideas and
links, and those with clever browsers (Navigator and Internet Explorer
4 and above) can set them to "subscribe" to the page on a regular
basis - if they can work out how.

All suggestions and comments are welcome. Please send to



Although this posting was compiled originally for writers, it has
become increasingly clear that this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
list is of use to anyone who wants to find their way around the Net.

It grew out of a cry for help that I sent out, in desperation. As a
professional writer, I wanted information of a variety of types. One
day I might want specific dates, another day just background
information. I wanted to know if I could use the Internet to find
these different types of information quickly and reliably. And I
wanted to know which of the many different bits of the Internet would
be good for which different type of search.

However, the vast majority of books, articles and Usenet postings do
not address the question from the point of view of the user, and tend
to be obsessed with either vague surfing or searching out free
software. The last thing I wanted was yet more software.

I was pleased to receive a number of responses to that original cry
for assistance - useful and supportive answers, which gradually became
the foundation of this FAQ.

The FAQ tries to look at the Net from the point of view of the user.
So it is divided into the kinds of questions that Net searchers might
have. It also includes "worked examples" where possible, to clarify
the methods that can be used. Finally there is a list of useful URLs
(Urls For A Rainy Day) which includes most of those mentioned in the
main text plus a load more, and is also available at

I haven't tried to explain what all the technical terms mean (eg: URL,
ARCHIE, FTP...) These are very adequately explained in a thousand
postings, books and magazines. The problem is knowing which to use in
which circumstances.

The Internet is constantly changing, and so I welcome any suggestions,
criticisms and additions. However, most Net users are snowed under
with URLs, etc, so please send personal recommendations, or that of
someone you know, and say why or how it is useful. (For example,
state that a particular URL is good for geographical queries, or how
you used Gopher to research background for your romantic novel).



Information, advice, URLS, e-mail addresses, etc, are generally
included on the recommendation of satisfied users. They are passed on
herewith without prejudice! I've not checked all of them out, and make
no guarantees that they are accurate, useful, or still appropriate, or
in fact ever were. I take no responsibility for any loss, damage or
waste of time in using them. Sorry. But please do tell me if an URL
turns out to be useless, or non-existent, so that the information can
be kept up- to-date.



3.1 If you want to use the Net effectively, you need to be prepared
for what it can and can't do.

The Internet is not a substitute for a good library. The Internet can
be very frustrating. The Internet is very variable. The Internet is
not well indexed. And the Internet is not comprehensive. So is it
worth using at all? Well...

3.2 The Internet is an additional source of information, which often
can't be found, or isn't as up-to-date, elsewhere.

"Searching for data on Internet can be frustrating but what you find
often can't be found in a library -- the same is true in reverse. I
didn't stop using the library when I started using the Internet."
(writer Laurence A.Moore)

3.3 The Internet is convenient, and supplies information in usable

"One handy thing about Internet research is that when I'm done, the
results are on my computer. With the library, the best I can do is
photocopy what I find, or bring the books home and type the data in.

"Looking out the window above my computer, I see birds and
autumn-colored trees and calm, quiet, gently-falling rain. As soon
as I send this, I'm going to bring a mug of fresh coffee back from the
kitchen and take off on Internet. Can't do that at my local
(Laurence A.Moore)

3.4 However, the Internet has to be worked at. The "superhighway" is
still substantially under construction. As one writer put it: "the
Internet is an enormous library in which someone has turned out the
lights and tipped the index cards all over the floor." (Or, variously,
"Like trying to work off the librarian's notes after discarding the
card catalogue," Allen Schaaf).

3.5 Be realistic and focused about what you want to find. Do you
want a precise fact, or more general background material? How will
you know when you've found enough information - or when to stop
trying? Faced with the enormous size of the Net, it's tempting to
believe that the ideal link is just around the next corner, but some
types of information simply aren't there, while other information may
exist on the Net, but be extremely difficult to locate. Sometimes, to
be honest, there are easier ways: a phone call, the local bookshop, a
friend of a friend.

Nevertheless, the more you learn about the Internet, the more you
become aware of what it can and can't do. The most difficult way to
approach the Internet is when you already have a large and urgent
piece of research to conduct. Better to check out small areas of it
without stress, for a few minutes at a time, on a regular basis. Give
yourself a chance to play about with the Net when the pressure is off,
so that when the pressure is on you can find what you need quickly and



What's the best and most efficient way to look for what I need? (Here
we look at some ways of finding the different kinds of information
that's on the Net.)

4.1 How can I find Specific Files, Texts, Media (images, sounds, etc)
or People?

4.1.1 How can I find specific file by name?

The more precise you can be with your search, the better. So if you
have a precise filename, you've got the best chance of finding what
you want.

Many search engines and meta-search engines now have facilities for
searching for software files, etc). Try Google, for example
or many of the others listed in URLs For A
Rainy Day (9.3.4).

There are many books, articles, etc, on the Internet which show how to
search for specific filenames, using Archie, etc, so this is not dealt
with further in the FAQ. However, researchers rarely have a precise,
or even imprecise, filename. So....

4.1.2 How can I find a specific text?

There are an increasing number of web and FTP sites which hold public
domain copies of a wide range of classic texts, song lyrics, etc.
Some links are given in part two of this FAQ - URLs For A Rainy Day
(Section 9.7).

You can also link to some of these via:

There are history archives on the Internet and a number of libraries
on the Net. For example, David Brager suggests the Library of
Congress' American Memory section - "Large collections of primary
source and archival material relating to American culture and


In addition, increasing numbers of search engines will allow you to
search across a number of search engines for specific items such as
lyrics. One such is OnlineSpy . See
Section 4.2.2 for discussion of other such "metasearch" engines and
9.3.4 for a list of metasearch engines to use.

4.1.3 How can I find a specific image, movie or sound?

Many metasearch engines, such as OnlineSpy (see above) will allow you
to search for images specifically - or even sounds or movie clips.
You may however need to be very precise with the terms you search with
(see 4.2.1 below for how to use search engines with precision).

One particularly useful site is Image Surfer
recently developed by Yahoo. Image Surfer is a search engine which
you can search by category or using search terms, but instead of
giving its answers in text form it produces a series of small
thumbnail images. Much the most useful image searcher I've yet seen,
Image Surfer's capacity is still small, but Yahoo promise it will grow
in size. Well worth checking out.

ImageFinder gives you a
number of different databases to search for a variety of types of
image - eg: the Smithsonian Photographic Collection or Colombia
University Image and Video Catalog.

Useful for both pictures and sound is the search engine HotBot
which provides tick boxes to allow your search
to include still images, video or audio sound clips, or even shockwave
animations. Said to be one of the best MP3 search engines at the

4.1.4 How can I find specific people?

There are many resources on the Net that can help you locate and even
make contact with specific people - famous or not, individuals or
companies. Whether they'll be of any use to you will depend on a
number of factors, not least geographical.

As with so much on the Internet, the vast majority of resources are
devoted to the USA. So there's little difficulty in finding
directories and databases with look-up or even reverse look-up
facilities covering just about every member of the US population,
alive or dead.

(Particularly intriguing, in passing, is
which among its useful resources for
genealogical research allows you to find the social security number
and other details of any dead American.... and then offers a facility
to write a letter! Do they know of some postal service that we

More wide-ranging are the directories of email addresses. However
these are far from all-inclusive, even assuming your target has an
email address. Some Internet Service Providers - such as CompuServe
and AOL used to provide a look-up service which included all
subscribers (and probably still do) but only for other subscribers, as
I understand.

For the rest, directories such as BigFoot
rely on finding email addresses of those who have web-pages or post
regularly to newsgroups. By no means does this include everybody.
Expect to have to try a number of sites before you find a lead.

In Urls For A Rainy Day - Section 9 - there are numerous search
facilities. 9.3.4, 9.3.5 and 9.11.2 give a number of meta-search
engines, people searchers and reference sites which offer specific
people-finding databases. Particularly useful are those such as
All-In-One or Langenberg
which have links to many different
"people" sites on one page.

There are also databases devoted to certain types, eg: politicians

Organisations are generally easier to find through a search engine.
But even then it is not always easy - especially if the organisation
doesn't have a web page of its own. However, David Brager writes to
inform us that if you know a domain name you can use it to find all
kinds of details, from contact e-mail and snail-mail addresses to
phone numbers at .

Whether looking for people or organisations, in difficult cases you
may need to try the more refined methods for finding information by
using Search Engines, or posting questions on Newsgroups or Mailing
Lists, as described in the next section.

4.2 How can I find Specific Information?

(eg: dates and places. Or questions like: "what is a...?" "who

4.2.1 SEARCH ENGINES are popular for this. You type in a key word
or phrase (such as Spain, or Spanish Civil War) and wait to see what
they provide.

The popularity of search engines on the Net can be changeable. When I
started this FAQ there was no clear winner. Then Alta Vista appeared
, and for some time beat all the others
hands down. For at least two years Google has taken over at the top

Google has many strong points, including simplicity, a lack of adverts
and the ability to check its own "cache" of pages if the page you're
looking for has temporarily disappeared. But no search angine is
perfect and different people have their different favourites. You can
find many other good search engines, each with its own paticular
strengths in our list of links - Urls for a Rainy Day.

The trick with using a search engine, is to know what each is good for
and to look carefully at the hints and tips that they offer. For
example some engines will only search for a precise phrase if you put
it in quotes - such as: "Spanish Civil War."

Planning is necessary for any search. Do some advance work with a
Thesaurus and list a fair number of relevent search terms. Remember
that search engines aren't like "Find" facilities on word processors.
So you can afford a scattergun approach, trying a number of related
words at the same time in case one of them hits home. For example: in
starting a search for items on dealing with tiredness you might type
the following related terms into the search box: fatigue overwork
tired exhausted exhaustion sleep.
Welcome to the Internet Search FAQ
How to Find Information, People, Data, Text, Pictures, Sounds and Almost Anything Else on the Net

FAQ Contents
How Can I Find Specific files, texts, multimedia or people?
How Can I Find Specific information?
How Can I Find More General Background Information?
How reliable is the Net?
What can I do about it?
How should Internet sources be cited?
URLS FOR A RAINY DAY - Loads of useful links for research of all kinds
This Frequently Asked Questions guide was last modified 1 June 2013
Caught in the Net? Going nowhere on the Information Superhighway? Fear no more.

Help is at hand. The Internet Search FAQ is here to help you find what you want - and retain your sanity in the process ...and find hundreds of essential links for searching in Urls for a Rainy Day

The main FAQ page is designed to be used by anyone, no matter how much or little you know about searching the Net. Unlike books and pages written by experts, it is based on the kinds of questions that typical users ask: why should I use the Internet? What's the best way to find specific things, specific information, more general information? How can I speed up my searches? Will I get better results if I pay? How reliable is the information I find?

While if you're impatient to get started, then go straight to our essential links and start clicking.

We also look at how to find further assistance, and try to guess what changes are on their way (although with the speed the Net changes, they may be happening even as you read).

News and New URLs

The latest on searching and our list of newly discovered resources to help you find your way around whatever subject you want to search on the Net... Click Here
For details of these and other new ways of finding information on the Internet go to our what's new page, updated regularly.

Charles E. Wharry(Darkbird18):

The Internet Search FAQ is very important to have and too understand because without this knowledge on how to search and research the Net you will get lost and get taking advantage of. The Internet Search FAQ is one of the first documents I downloaded back in 1995 and it have help do my research online and also have lead me too many interested websites about online research.

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