How to Search On Line Successfully

Eliot Soloway, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Education, does not recommend teaching students Boolean logic for doing online searches. "It will just overwhelm them," he said. "Often librarians and teachers aren't certain how Boolean logic works, so they don't teach it."

Instead, Professor Soloway suggests that students follow these steps:

1. Phrase your search as a question.

2. Think of the important words in that question. Then think of words that are related to the important words. Write all the words down.

3. Go to your favorite search engine.

4. Type in two or three words from your list, making sure they are spelled correctly, then search. Open a new window, type them in again, in a different order, and search again.

5. Identify the common links between the two searches.

Read the very brief summaries provided.

6. When you chose a Web site, open the page in a new window so that you can go back to your list of hits.

7. Open a text editor window. Copy and paste the site's U.R.L. (address) into that window and follow it with an annotation of your own.

Do that for five sites.

8. See if you have found the answer you were looking for. If not, reformulate your question to come up with new key words.

from Lori Leibovich, "Choosing Quick Hits Over the Card Catalog."
The New York Times
10 August 2000, D6.