An Unconventional Author

September 9, 2006

Working the Web

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversinghystory @ 1:18 pm

How to find what you need – now.

 

As you probably know, the Web abounds in search engines.  Each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses.  However, only one seems designed for historical research: Excite!

 

Excite’s “More like this” feature allows you to improve your chances of finding useful information in less time than possible using other search engines.  Responses are rated by percentage of accuracy to your request and, if it looks like you are almost where you want to be, click on the More like this link to add probably helpful sites to your list.

 

BUT, if you are searching for background information in a popular area/era, Excite has another feature that many people do not notice.

 

Just below the search entry line, Excite gives you a choice of words to add to your search pattern.  Excite gets these words from the first batch of responses to your original request.  Each time you add any of these words to your search pattern, Excite narrows your responses and generates a new list of selectable words.  In this way, you can cut 2,000 responses down to a manageable selection that is precisely what you are looking for.

 

For example, say you are searching medieval France.  Can you imagine how many hits you’d get with that one?  In this case, More like this is just going to cause you more problems and cost you more time.  Using choice words is essential.  In searching through the long first set of responses, Excite might suggest that you add such words as clothing, food, habits, Paris, battles, etc.   You click on those that come closest to what you want to know and search again.  Excite will generate a new list.  This time they might suggest that you add armor, cooking, customs, weapons etc.  And so it goes, each search coming closer to the precise information you are seeking.

 

Going about your research in this fashion will, admittedly, take a long time – the first time.  However, after that first session, you will have eliminated hundreds of useless pages and be left with a long list of useful research sites.  Rather than having to go through the entire process of elimination every time you venture out onto the Web.

 

Additionally, you can save your final Excite search page and go back to that point in your search when you have exhausted/absorbed the material already collected.

 

I suggest that you save the bookmarks from research sessions in a separate file and just to be safe, copy that file to a floppy along with your other current project files.  None of us like to think about it but Hard Drives do foul up and Web Browsers do lose bookmarks.

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1 Comment »

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