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Search vs. Research

by on February 22, 2016

Research is a method of collecting qualitative and quantitative data, verifying it, and determining conclusions, while searching is somewhat an art form, learning about search engines and taxonomies, and being able to use them successfully to find data and answers.

I’m sometimes caught with my jaw open. In working with many librarians on various discussion lists, I find they seem to be looking for things and answers only on those databases and aggregators of databases to which they have corporate access, such as ProQuest, EBSCOhost, Gale databases, et al. Of course, this is done because these databases are considered safe and more reliable information than items found on the Internet. But my jaw drops when I find they haven’t made an effort to search the Internet, or they haven’t found what they need from the Internet when indeed it can be found. In any case, the Internet can be and is, for a librarian, a friend.

Lots of information can be found using various search engines and search operands with the Internet. To be honest, it seems the Internet is now about finding more friends or connections than you can deal with, finding more restaurants for which you have no time to eat at, or in the case of a chosen career, finding more jobs for which you won’t ever qualify, and more than you even want to be qualified for. To me, it seems that more people are making money online telling me how to write, how to market, how to publish, and how to annoy as many people as possible to sell my stories, than those actually writing stories and nonfiction.

This piece is about finding resources to help you use the Internet more effectively and efficiently.

Search Engines

There are lots of directories of search engines—engines for countries, for collectors, for researchers, for almost any endeavor you might be engaged in.

Phil Bradley has a short annotated list. The site also has articles about using the different search engines and gives a listing of social media tools, and the blogs about searching can keep you up-to-date.

Mashable has a listing organized hierarchically for general, human-generated, book and library, business, music- and video-related, blog and RSS engines, and miscellaneous topical engines. These are somewhat similar to the Wikipedia layout below.

Wikipedia has an interesting and useful breakdown of search engines and what they do: sorting out those of general content, specific topics, a grouping based on model (hierarchical, index, clustering, meta, semantic, visual, etc.,) and a section telling us which search engine indexes these various engines are using, if not their own.

SearchEngineWatch.com is one of the premier sites to find information about search engines, marketing, SEO (search engine optimization), and many articles about the difference in engines. It was one of the first of such sites and used to have a very easy-to-find chart of all the operands used for the various search engines. Initially SEW was on the top of my list, but it has gone far into the business of marketing and helping webmasters to create pages so search engines can find them, rather than about searching and research.

Using Boolean and Scripts

Operand charts include Google. Many university libraries, like University of New Orleans and Berkeley, already have Boolean charts available outlining operands for several library databases.

Some software programs can generate scripts for searching. A book some might wish to read is Alison and Adrian Stacey’s Effective Information Retrieval from the Internet: An Advanced User’s Guide. I’ve also mentioned Tara Calishan’s book Web Search Garage in another article.

A 2004 presentation by Marcus P. Zillman, “Searching the Internet Using Brains and Bots,” provide for some great—if a bit dated—resources for searching and/or teaching library literacy.

In the music business, finding a piece of sheet music can be difficult, unless you know that various publishers have contractual agreements with publishing groups in other countries. A European publisher will have agents for their works in the U.S. but not necessarily under the original publisher’s name. TRO, Inc. in New York City has or had at one point, contracts with music publishing groups in seventeen countries. You could often go to TRO to find something published in Europe and other countries but unavailable from the original publisher. You can discover who these agents are, usually, by surveying the original publisher’s entire website.

Not everyone can know details about all businesses, but persistent and creative searching can often reveal such things. At this point in time, as essential as bibliographic instruction is, knowledge of searching is at least as important to the librarian, and it really helps to know the inside workings of various fields of business.


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  1. […] Paul Jackson, “Search vs. Research“ […]

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