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Putting It All Together

This chapter has given you a lot of information about a wide variety of tools you can use to gather information for your knowledge work. One way you can put all these tools together is by following a search strategy like the following six-step process.

  1. Define your question. The first thing you need to do in searching for information is to spend a little front-end time figuring out exactly what information you’re looking for. In Jeff Henshaw’s case (at the beginning of this chapter), he categorized his competitive analysis task into several topics—financial information, product strategy, and the like. He knew the structure of the deliverable before he started working. And he got this from his manager—not a bad way to define your question! As you define your question, you might consider

    What type of information will the deliverable provide—numbers, tables, charts, text, qualitative judgments, conclusions, expert opinions, references?

    Can you make a template of the deliverable that you can copy information you find into, so it’s already structured in the right way as you gather it?

    What is your starting point—a company name, a concept, a trend, a set of facts?

    What are the concepts related to this starting point, and how would you research it if there were no Internet?

  2. Start with known resources. If you have an initial Web site or person’s name, start with this. Read every word in these initial Web sites to get a feel for your topic. When possible, copy information into your template but don’t worry too much at this point—you’re mainly getting a flavor for your topic.

  3. Perform your initial search. This step allows you to gather all the information that’s available on the visible Web, and then start to refine it.

    Use your favorite search or metaseach engine, keeping terms fairly broad.

    Use advanced search features and Boolean logic to refine your search terms and focus on sites of interest.

    Scan these sites, and bookmark those of interest.

    Go back to the bookmarked sites and read them more thoroughly, copying information into your template if appropriate.

    Use the Show Related Sites tool to search for additional sites that your search engines might have missed.

  4. Reevaluate. Read all the information you gathered and ask two questions.

    Is this information credible? If you’re uncertain, how can you verify it?

    What additional information do you need?

  5. Analyze. As you look at the information you need to obtain or verify, use the following sources to further research the topic.

    Now’s the time to use the specialized databases in the Invisible Web to find additional facts, news, or industry reports.

    Now that you’re becoming knowledgeable about the subject, you can talk intelligently with experts about it. Use the strategies in Chapter 2 to access other people on the Web who know about your topic.

    Use focused Boolean searches to check facts you’re uncertain of and track down their sources.

  6. Prepare your answer. You have the information you’ve been seeking; now you can proceed to summarize it, analyze it, or make your own conclusions about it and present it up the line!


    Every year new types of search assistants emerge, and every month new entrants in existing categories make their appearance. It’s always smart to have a couple of sites that discuss search strategies in your Favorites list and visit them occasionally. You can do a search for “searching strategies,” visit a useful site hosted by the University of California at Berkeley (http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/), or go to Search Engine Watch (http://www.searchenginewatch.com).



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