Using and Evaluating Electronic Resources
Lesson 4

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Fundamentals of Online Searching


This lesson will introduce you to basic concepts for formulating searches of library online catalogs, periodical indexes and the World Wide Web.

Library catalogs, indexes to periodicals, and the World Wide Web are all databases. They have structural similarities and underlying organizational principles for the information they contain. The telephone book, your address book, and the grocery store are databases of a sort too. All of these have an internal organization that helps you find what you need--whether it be a telephone number, an address, a particular kind of soup, a book of poetry criticism, or an article on television's effect on young children.

When you are looking for chips and other snacks in Bruno's, you are searching a database. The aisles of the grocery store are organized by type of food. The telephone book has two kinds of organization--the residential and business sections are arranged alphabetically, the yellow pages by category. The online catalog and periodical indexes are organized primarily by title, author, and subject matter.

Finding the information you need to investigate and support your thesis will be more effective and efficient when you know and take advantage of the structure of a library online catalog or a periodical index. We generally understand how grocery stores or music stores are structured. You don't look for sour cream and onion Tostitos in the dairy department. You don't look for a CD by Destiny's Child in the classical music section of the shoe store.

The next sections will introduce you to the organization of library online catalogs, periodical indexes, and the WWW, and introduce fundamental concepts necessary to make the most of your searches.

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