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Subject: Professional Research FAQ v.1.3

This article was archived around: 26 Oct 1997 07:59:23 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: internet
All FAQs posted in: sci.research, comp.infosystems.www.announce
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Archive-name: internet/pro-research-faq Posting-Frequency: monthly Last-modified: Jul 26, 1997 URL: http://cn.net.au Copyright: (c) 1997 David Novak Maintainer: David Novak <david@cn.net.au>
Professional Information Research FAQ This FAQ serves to highlight the methods, the resources and the skills used in professional information research with particular interest in the role of the Internet as both a reservoir and gateway to information resources. This FAQ is for researchers who have access to the Internet. Research without the computer is research undertaken with books, articles, interviews, librarians and outside research assistance. Research with the computer includes more online databases and Internet websites, as well as books, articles, interviews, etcetera. Many resources suggested here have alternative paper sources not mentioned in the belief that Internet or commercial database links are preferred. This computer bias is unavoidable. You may have experience in professional information research and I am more than interested to act as a clearing-house for information, questions and advice. Please direct them to David Novak - david@cn.net.au A much altered version of this FAQ is available at http://cn.net.au where I am pioneering alternative ways to present information on this topic. This FAQ is relatively concise as more information is available at this website. Disclaimer: - This document is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this FAQ, the author or contributors assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein. The contents of this FAQ reflect my opinions only and not necessarily those of Community Networking, or its supporters. Contents 1. What is Professional Information Research? 2. What does the Internet have to do with Professional Research? 3. Research : Step One : Frame the Question / Visualize the Answer 4. Research : Step Two : Select the Tools 5. Research Worthy Resources: Vectors 5.1 books 5.6 statistics 5.2 articles 5.7 patents 5.3 primary experience 5.8 theses 5.4 websites 5.9 further research sources 5.5 newsprint 6. Research Worthy Resources: Venues 6.1 libraries 6.6 associations 6.2 research databases 6.7 periodicals 6.3 secondary experience 6.8 Internet search engines 6.4 government 6.9 Internet discussion groups 6.5 faqs 6.10 further meta-resources 7. Specialty Research Resources 7.1 legal research 7.2 computer field research 7.3 researching research 7.4 researching as a student 8. More on the Internet as a research resource 9. More on the Commercial Information Sphere 10. More on the Information Service Industry 10.1 judging information value 10.2 buying information assistance 11. Emerging Trends in the information sphere 12. Education and Training in Professional Research 12.1 Facts 12.3 Guidance 12.2 Practice 13. Question and Answer Section 13.1 How do I find information on the Internet? 14. Acknowledgments ___________________________________________________ 1. What is Professional Information Research? What indeed? I prefer to think of Professional Research as an effort to locate answers, efficiently. Professional Research is not that vague browsing of available information for something which interests you, nor is it Internet Surfing. Professional Research is the real research... and it is hard work. Professional Research is also an art form. The skills, tools, and resources we work with are only the canvass and paints of an artist. It extends from commercial, legal, reporting, through the skills of interviewing, database searching, and research analysis using books, articles, experts, patents. Professional Research is so large a field, involving so many skills, tools and resources, you will quickly find you do not wish to learn it all. The basic motto: "Someone, somewhere, probably knows something you want to know." In this FAQ, I will try to inform you about this exciting field which most people do occasionally, and occasionally do well. I will also link to many of the better resources both on the Internet and further afield. For an alternative entry to this topic, consider visiting http://cn.net.au where I have put even more of my effort. ___________________________________________________ 2. What does the Internet have to do with Professional Research? The Internet is an inexpensive system for the delivery of information. It is also the medium of a dramatic shift in the way we access information. 1) A dramatic drop in the cost of publishing is fuelling 2) the liberation of information from previously closed systems, leading to 3) an emergence of alternative funding for certain public resources and 4) an eagerly awaited 'direct to consumer' commercial information industry (currently on hold until an effective digital currency arrives). As a delivery system, you may be surprised to learn I routinely access Dialog through the Internet, at the cost of a local call (without the international call charges). Further, I access the LOCIS, ERIC, MOCAT and AGIP databases directly from their source, free (and not through commercial database providers). On counterpoint, as an information resource the Internet is still much too disorganized and poorly prepared to be useful in most situations of professional research. Most often, researching the Internet is no better than browsing the shelf of your state library. What is impressive is the promise of changes to the way we seek information. The Internet as a system suggests radical improvements to the current decade-old systems which have attained their research-worthy status. These improvements, however, have yet to prove their worth, so will remain promising ventures for a time. In some fields, particularly research computer information, the Internet has already begun to usurped the traditional roles of books, manuals and small associations. Just when you will consult the Internet as a research-worthy resource depends on cost, effort, and the quality of the information returned. This judgment call requires more than a little experience. I sincerely hope we can suppress our enthusiasm for free information in favour of a more true appraisal of the value of information. That I have included far more Internet resources in this FAQ actually reflects my familiarity with Internet Research, rather than believing Internet resources are superior to alternative sources. ___________________________________________________ 3. Research : Step One : Frame the Question / Visualize the Answer Researchers work hard at properly framing the research query. Like the photographer, much of the true expertise of a researcher is found in visualizing what they want, before beginning to look. This is the first step in properly undertaking research, and the primary step that wanna-be researchers skip. Sit down and visualize what a successful search would look like in this situation. How many pages? How many documents? What kind of authors and what kind of quality of document? Go through the whole gamut of different types of research tools and describe it. Could a simple three line newspaper article be considered a successful search? Would a 20 year old dissertation be acceptable? Would a short conversation with an expert suffice? (Incidentally, this same approach works exceptionally well in Internet research.) Now that we know what we want, more or less, lets reframe our question. If you can phrase a question in a way that lends itself to your resource, you are far more likely to get the answers desired. Oddly, this often means you are asking for places where the information resides rather than asking directly for the information. "Where do I find a definitive list of associations?" - works much better than - "What association works with exceptional children?" We can find all the associations we want once we find the definitive list of Associations. Similarly, "Who would know of associations for exception children?" and - "Are there pamphlets of advice for parents of exceptional children?" - and - "What umbrella organizations/specialist libraries exist for exceptional children?" - each direct our attention in different directions. Questions are not right or wrong, just better or worse at illuminating certain aspects of the 'answer'. (Keep in mind a post-modern view of research. Everything, including notions of accuracy and reliability, are warped by the question and the position of both the researcher, the information source and the end user.) Most research should include ample time to refresh and reframe the questions. ___________________________________________________ 4. Research : Step Two : Select the Tools Professional Research rests on understanding the technology and an awareness of the resources. In the example above (Section 3), a directory of associations does exist, Directory of Australian Associations, found in most important Australian libraries. The government's Department of Education has a major interest in promoting exceptional students. In Western Australia, Infolink, a comunity information service, should have a record of major community groups for exceptional students. I have no direct knowledge of umbrella organizations or specialist libraries, though I expect both the education department and Infolink would. A quick search of some large libraries may help us find some of the pamphlets but certainly not all that exist. Knowing of specific resources is helpful. Even better, though, is knowledge of tools which help you find resources: meta-resources. So what if we did not know exceptional students come under the department of education... Did we know who to ask to find out which government department is involved? If you did not know about the directory of associations, who or where would you look for one? Being unfamiliar with meta-tools is a serious handicap - you may find yourself searching hours for something a professional would do on the phone while drinking coffee! This is why much of your work becoming a professional researcher involves learning about the resources and meta-resources for your field. There is a large list of some of them coming up and I am trying to create an even larger list at http://cn.net.au, (help appreciated) but each researcher will have their own pool of contacts, favoured research resources and meta-resources. That you are seeking more is most likely the reason you read this FAQ. __________________________________________________ 5. Research Worthy Resources: Vectors Information about the Information Sphere is extremely disorganized. Html appears to be better suited for organizing certain topics (like country profile data), but this is another effort to present a map/description to the largely undocumented sphere. A research vector is a format of information, and is distinct from Research Venues, section 6. Each vector has certain qualities to them and usually distinct entry points too. This section includes: books, articles, primary experience, websites, newsprint, statistics, patents, theses, and further research sources __ 5.1 books Books are dense, factual and comprehensive. They also describe assimilated research and opinion, a minimum 6 months to a year old by definition - usually much older. # Most free on-line books are indexed at Books Online, Carnegie Mellon University. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/booksubjects.html Other books exist on the Internet, but will be hard to find unless you have a lead. # I know of Government Publication Databases for these countries: Australian Government Index of Publications (1992+) http://www.agps.gov.au/products/agip.htm Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications(MOCAT-1994+) http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html # The (US) Library of Congress (LOCIS) is available in two formats: The Official site is http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/, but don't go there, the Library of Congress Experimental Search System is less busy and more effective. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/resdev/ess/ # Other free large book databases include: Australian National Library Card Catalogue telnet://ilms.nla.gov.au and perhaps large online bookstores like Amazon.Com http://www.amazon.com # The definitive source for books is a collection of national book databases: Australian Books in Print, US Books in Print, UK Books in Print and I think South African Books in Print. Collectively these are found as World Books in Print. Thankfully, your local bookstore is likely to have subscriptions to one of these. Again, other books exist in the world, but will be hard to find unless you have a lead. # Emerging resources include Commercial Book Stores, Author Fan Clubs, Book Discussion Lists and Online Book Review Archives. Many forums also include occasional book reviews, or offer a venue to ask advice on interesting books. # Locating Book Reviews, thanks to Monash University Library (Australia). http://www.lib.monash.edu.au/hss/guides/fsreview.htm __ 5.2 articles Articles have a statement of quality, currency and editorial vetting. Sometimes articles are long, unique and informative. Sometimes articles are short, simple, trite. There are a range of ways to access articles - though none particularly inexpensive. Further, there is copyright to consider - most researchers are restricted to using certain expensive systems when undertaking paid assistance. # Online Databases of Full Text Articles # Full Text Articles on CD-Rom # Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes) # Online and Printed Bibliography Databases # CARL # Articles directly out of Journals # Direct Purchase from publishers # Online Databases of Full Text Articles This really is the new wave of database access. Buying them online also simplifies the purchase of copyright. There are many commercial databases of full text articles available. Access requires an account with a commercial database marketter (Dialog, BRS, AOL) and a familiarity with the system used to access this information. Each commercial marketter will have their own directory of databases and books about how to search (though Sections 6.2, 9 & 12 of this FAQ may assist you). We now have a collective search engine of commercial database descriptions, found on http://cn.net.au/tools/ # Full Text Articles on CD-Rom An alternative to Online is information prepared on CD-Rom. These are only occassionally the type of services which individuals would consider buying, but all major research libraries, and increasingly major public libraries, are purchasing these services for their patrons. A recent full text article CD-Rom station has a brilliant future. Up to 500 journals are updated frequently in this inexpensive format. And most Research Libraries have this station. I know Edith Cowan University jumped ahead by buying one for each of their four campuses (each cost A$10,000+). A side note on these sources: research libraries are often filled with research students. Odd coincidence really, but this means the best resources (read full text article CD-Rom stations) are inevitably booked out. There are also frequent computer difficulties - as the equipment is not often state of the art. # The Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes) is the definitive source of information on databases (though cracks are appearing). Most important libraries have a copy, though not often on the open shelves. # Online and Printed Bibliography Databases Yes, there are far more of these. These databases are just like the full text databases - just they only provide you with the bibliographic details. The alternative is a variety of printed directories. APAIS, PAIS, ERIC, all started life as a print directory of publications, and most still live on in this format. # CARL Carl, one of the great library groups in North America established a service to provide articles by post or fax. They dutifully provide an Internet access point, and they are working at colluding with major libraries, but I am still unfamiliar with this service. # Articles directly out of Journals Of course, this is the main stay of article research. Find a library nearby which holds the journal then read or photocopy it then and there. Of course, this only works well if you have a useful bibliography to work from. An alternative is to consider an Inter-Library Request for an article. These services are not offered by all libraries, and while inexpensive, will take a month over to arrive. In Western Australia, the State Library offers a service to search the holdings of most Australian Libraries, which greatly simplifies this task. # Direct Purchase from publishers There are always the opportunity to source back issues of periodicals direct from the publisher. Copyright payments can also be determined this way. Trouble is both are so extremely expensive and time consuming. Thankfully, the Copyright Councils are working on a solution based on pre-negotiated rates with themselves as the payment source. Let me rediscover more about this and report back. __ 5.3 primary experience Experts can offer firsthand knowledgable experience in a personal and factual manner. They can also be a pain in the butt. There is a whole sphere of study in how to interview an expert, championed by the newspaper reporter (who often does little else), but the basics are not hard to understand. 1) Locate someone who is deeply involved in an issue 2) Try to interest them in discussing their views 3) Ask a few pertinent questions, but mostly just summarize their words and look interested. Finding experts is not hard too. # Relevant Associations # Government departments # Accademic staff # Book authors or impressive article authors In each case, you merely need to interest them in coffee and get a highly informed description of their experience. Be aware that all experts are potentially biased, but most often invaluable. Experts are also brilliant sources for finding additional sources of information: try to take out your research to date and quickly describe where you have been. The expert is unlikely to learn of a new source (though they hope to), but will certainly end up recommending some source you had not considered. __ 5.4 websites Websites are often of unknown age, of only guessed at quality and potentially the easiest information to retrieve. There are many points of entry into this field, but only a few are quick enough to be useful in serious research (as distinct from recreational surfing). Finding the WebSite Please do not think a simple scan of several Internet search engines will suffice to search anything on the Internet. There is a much clearer description of this in the research studies section (Section 12). If you find something useful in this way, count yourself lucky. A better approach is to move through the various systems and structures on the Internet till you find the one most rewarding. Information clumps together. Information does not exist in isolation but instead is developed in context, is reinforced, and develops progressively. This is why a ftp archive may be the best place to start for Perl programming, The Copyright FAQ for Copyright issues, a directory is the best place to start for women's studies and the (government) HUD user website for Housing research. Sometimes it takes a very long time to locate the specific area, but it is usually recognizable once you locate the primary sources. # Internet Search Engines # Internet Forums # FAQs and Newsgroups # Internet Directories # Australian Entry Points (national, state & government) http://cn.net.au/vectors/websites.html There are also new structures emerging # webrings, # topic-specific search engines __ 5.5 newsprint Newsprint is accessible through electronic databases. In addition, most State libraries have a substantial catalogue of past newspapers. Newsprint tends to be superficial and reasonably biassed, but current newspapers are very current. # Media Monitoring There are firms which specialize in scanning a whole host of newspapers for reference to certain names, topics or businesses. Any new article of interest is copied and posted/faxed to your attention. # Newspaper Archives Newspapers are kept in libraries. Each major newspaper also maintains a private library of their past documents. # Copyright Permission Most newspapers are party to the Copyright Convention, which allows you to easily purchase additional copies, most often for less than 10 cents per page. __ 5.6 statistics Statistics allow us to lie with confidence. They are dense, factual and often more reliable than personal experience. Of course in research, we are talking about four separate categories of statistics: national statistical organizations, Association Statistics, Government Agency Statistics and Commercial Statistics. After much consideration, I think this will be real hard to express in an FAQ, so I have a list & database of these at http://cn.net.au/vectors/stats.html and http://cn.net.au I'll try to include lists of statistics here and keep specific statistics for an area I can arrange better. # Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) http://www.abs.gov.au/ # 1997 Catalogue of Publications and Products & Subject Guide Australian Bureau of Statistics http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3110121.NSF/ -> -> d29f0d90066771024a25644f001d0c5b?OpenView # US Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/ Country Profiles We recently completed an article listing 15+ country resources, and have linked this to a map - so if you are interested in this type of information, do visit the website. This list includes references to: 1) World Bank's Competitive Indicators, 2) Pan American Health Organization's Country Health Profiles, 3) (UK) Foreign Counsular Office's Travel Advice, 4) US Department of State's Background Notes, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (1996), Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade Practices (1996) & (1995), 5) US Library of Congress's Country Studies, 6) US Department of State's Travel Warnings, 7) The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s Country Factbook, and Chiefs of State file, 8) Canadian Forces College, Department of National Defence's War Peace and Security Guide, 9) United Nations General Assembly's Agenda 21 Report, 10) Shoreland's Travel Health Online's Country Summary Profiles, 11) The Amnesty International Report 1997, 12) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees's Country Comments, and 13) The (Canadian) Deparment of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)'s Travel Information & Advisory Reports. There is also a link to the PACIFIC exchange rate website. Commercial Country Profile information also abounds. As this does not translate well to flat text, so visit http://cn.net.au/articles/country.html for more information. __ 5.7 patents patent databases # The US Patents Fulltext # European Patents Fulltext # INPADOC # an assortment of additional databases include patent details Internet patent resources # There is a project to bring US patents to the Internet. Last time I looked it was just titles, but aiming for full text. Further resources # Australian Patent Offices Card catalogue system at each capital city. # Patent Attorneys __ 5.8 theses Theses and dissertations are professional papers completed for higher degrees. They are long, dense and often very esoteric and convoluted. Trouble is, most theses and dissertations have no more than 12 copies ever - one always to the University Library, another with the author, and others scatter to the wind. # Dissertation Abstracts Online (by UMI) # Australian Theses (a list was maintained from 1966 to 1991) # AEI Australian Education Index (Australian education theses abstracts) # British theses (???) # Dissertations and Theses of the ROC (Taiwan) # THESA (France) # Many larger topic-specific databases also include some theses. # See also University Library card catalogues __ 5.9 further research sources As I mentioned earlier, I do not like most Market Research, but I have heard tales of using the wear on rail lines as a measure of their business. There are many vectors, just the above have been more effective. In the near future we will have e-books emerging as a new resource: electronic books you must pay for which may or may not lack editorial and quality control. You will most likely locate further resources by asking advice of experts and secondary sources. ___________________________________________________ 6. Research Worthy Resources: Venues Despite, and perhaps because, the information about the information sphere is so very disorganized, a wide range of information venues have developed to assist users to access the range of information which exist. Each venue has particular features, and specializes on certain vectors, certain topics. This section includes libraries, research databases, secondary experience, government, faqs, associations, periodicals, Internet search engines, Internet discussion groups and further meta-resources. __ 6.1 libraries # The (US) Library of Congress (LOCIS) is available in two formats: The Official site is http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/, but don't go there, the Library of Congress Experimental Search System is less busy and more effective. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/resdev/ess/ # Australian National Library Card Catalogue Telnet to Search the Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) # Directory of Special Libraries in Australia by ALIA, listing of 1400+ special libraries in Australia. # Australian Libraries http://cn.net.au/venues/library.html # US Libraries - thanks to Library of Congress. http://lcweb.loc.gov/z3950/gateway.html __ 6.2 research databases # The Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes) # The database directory of the Australian Database Development Association (ADDA) # Directories for the large Commercial Database Marketters: Dialog, Ausinet, BRS, Westlaw, Mead, ... # The Commercial Database List, a distributed database of commercial database descriptions. http://cn.net.au/tools/ Free Databases also available through commercial sources # ERIC - Education Resources http://www.aspensys.com/eric/ # Australian Government Index of Publications (AGIP 1992+) http://www.agps.gov.au/products/agip.htm # Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications(MOCAT 1994+) http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html # The (US) Library of Congress (LOCIS) is available in two formats: The Official site is http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/, but don't go there, the Library of Congress Experimental Search System is less busy and more effective. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/resdev/ess/ # US database of Corporate Information (EDGAR) thanks to US Securities and Exchange Commission http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar __ 6.3 secondary experience Sometimes you must go to people who have only experience with the people in the field, rather than people with first-hand experience. I am thinking of reporters, business experts and advisors. This is fine if you intend to follow some of the leads suggested, but somehow unprofessional if used as a resource itself. # Associations Experts # Accademic Experts # Journalists # Government Advisors __ 6.4 government # Government Publication Databases exist for these countries: Australian Government Index of Publications (1992+) http://www.agps.gov.au/products/agip.htm Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications(MOCAT-1994+) http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html # Australian Government Entry Points, Federal and State Entry Points and Agency Lists, http://cn.net.au/venues/gov.html # Fedworld - US Government Entry Points http://www.fedworld.gov/ # Yahoo has an extensive listing of government & agency entry points http://www.yahoo.com # GovBot - thanks to the US Business Advisor http://www.busines.gov/Search_Online.html # Another GovBot was unfortunately not working, but I like the idea so much that here is the address anyway. http://www.nwbuildnet.com/nwbn/govbot.html I will be working more on this area shortly. Look first to the Community Networking site: cn.net.au United Nations # United Nations Website http://www.un.org/ # The Yearbook of the United Nations (annual) summarizes all the UN's activities that year. # United Nations Chronicle (quarterly of 80+pages) covers current activities by the UN # The Latest Breaking News is published to their Web Site http://www.un.org/News/ # UN Blue Book Series is a new set of very detailed summaries on topical issues: Somolia, apartheid, nuclear-non-proliferation... # In Australia, each State Library holds an archive of United Nations Documents. I believe this is common abroad. # For more detail, search UNDOC - Current Index - subject guide, the quarterly tomb which provides a non-cumulative index to UN publications. The print version was discontinued after Sept 1996, in favour of the microfiche version. # I have further information at http://cn.net.au/venues/gov.html __ 6.5 faqs # FAQs and Newsgroup database (Community Networking) http://cn.net.au/venues/faqs.html # Another Newsgroup database Thanks to Liszt. http://www.liszt.com/news/ # List of Periodic Informational Postings, thanks to the *.answers moderators http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/ -> -> faq/usenet/periodic-postings/ http://www.ii.com/internet/faqs/writing/ news://news.answers # In Australia, FAQs rest at Telstra's Plaza.Aarnet site ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/ # A [partial] list of FAQ archives exist in news-answers/introduction ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/ -> -> news-answers/introduction I would love to know a definitive listing of FAQ archives. Related Information # The Argus Clearing-house - Clearing-house of Subject-oriented Directories. http://www.clearinghouse.net/ # Searching Current Network News with Dejanews or Altavista http://www.dejanews.com/ http://www.altavista.digital.com __ 6.6 associations Associations often interpret their purpose as a place to pool and distribute information. Larger associations often maintain a specialized library, collect statistics, publish and have experts on their staff. # Directory of Australian Associations - the definitive source for addressing and contact numbers. # US Directory of Association # The ASCOT database also includes details on the management of Australian associations. # a Directory of Non-profit Organizations on the Internet exists, I believe. __ 6.7 periodicals Magazines and Journals provide a valuable service in quality control and editorial input. There are three difficulties though. Rarely do we want to sit down with all past issues and browse, so we start with "What article?" Secondly, many articles you locate may be impractical to access. Lastly, we have Copyright Permission. # Electronic Zines, archived on the Internet, can be found from John Labovitz's E-Zine-List arranged under 80 different subjects. http://www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list/ Lists of Periodicals # Subject Access to Australian Journals - by National Library of Australia (still limited) http://www.nla.gov.au/oz/ausejour.html # Ulrich's International Directory of Periodicals Locating Periodicals # Online Card Catalogues to Major Libraries (see libraries - section 6.1) # Full text from electronic sources. # Specialist libraries __ 6.8 Internet search engines In the grand challenge to create the most efficient and effective way to organize Internet resources, the search engines are slowly falling far behind. There was a time, early in 1996, when these resources were brilliant. But business pages began to float to the top, the blunt search technologies fail to keep pace with the volume of information and the dross of the Internet is slowly filling up these beautiful creations. # AltaVista http://altavista.digital.com # WebCrawler http://webcrawler.com # Lycos http://www.lycos.com # HotBot http://www.hotbot.com/ # Excite http://www.excite.com/ # MetaCrawler http://www.metacrawler.com Australian Web Resources # Aussie.com.au (also allows search for names only) http://aussie.com.au # More Australian Search Engines (Thanks to Vicnet) http://www.vicnet.net.au/vicnet/searchall.htm#australia # Australian State Search Engines (Community Networking) http://cn.net.au/vectors/ise.html Related Resources: # Yahoo http://www.yahoo.com # The Argus Clearing-house, A collection of guides to the Internet. http://www.clearinghouse.net/ __ 6.9 Internet discussion groups There are three important research applications for mailing lists: search through past discussion, directly ask members for assistance, and become a participative member to pick up information. The best forums are private. The list manager decides if you are allowed in and more control and effort is expended in developing interesting content and discussion. If you a closed and private forum, persevere. # Liszt - The definitive but incomplete record of Internet lists including a subject index. http://www.liszt.com/ # Ozlists - A definitive but incomplete listing of Australian lists in a subject index http://www.gu.edu.au/gint/ozlists/ozlists_home.html # Inter-Links http://www.nova.edu/Inter-Links/cgi-bin/lists # The Argus Clearing-house, a collection of guides to the Internet. http://www.clearinghouse.net/ # The Tile.Net/Lists has both a searchable and a directory style index http://www.tile.net/tile/listserv/ Interrogating List Software There are many different mailing list software including listserv, majordomo, listproc, mailbase, and more. Each program has its own interrogation commands. Almost all automatically archive messages and a few even allow for remote searching of message archives. Mailing List instructions # Community Networking http://cn.net.au/venues/forums.html # more detail at Saint Louis University Law Library, thanks to James Milles. http://lawlib.slu.edu/training/mailser.htm Particularly Mailing Lists: # Business Librarians List Buslib-l # Government Documents List Govdoc # Australian Government Documents List # Journet-l (prominent Journalist list from Canada) List Support Details # Proper Newsgroup Etiquette ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.announce.newusers/ # Information on how to build successful mailing lists http://cn.net.au/cn/index.html __ 6.10 further meta-resources # Standard Directories from telephone directories to staff and government directories # Specialist Directories from Lloyds Shipping Register, Radio Airtime Sales and an (Australian) National Directory of Multicultural Research # The Directory of Australian Directories # Internet Chat-groups ___________________________________________________ 7. Specialty Research Resources I am a little disadvantaged here, but I have listed either some of the specific tools I know of, or meta-resources which may help you find further information on field-specific research resources. __ 7.1 legal research # FAQ : Law-Related_Resources_on_the_Internet_and_Elsewhere ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/ # The Legal Research FAQ ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/ # Copyright_Myths_FAQ ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/copyright/ # Copyright FAQ ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/copyright/faq/ __ 7.2 computer field research Unlike most every other field, a primary resource for quality information about computers is the Internet. # Archie - a database of ftp addresses to files found in ftp archives. http://archie.au/archie-adv.html - New Advanced Query http://archie.au/archie.html - New Simple Query email to archie@plaza.aarnet.edu.au # ShareWare.com http://shareware.com # Association of Shareware Professionals http://www.asp-shareware.org/ # Directory of Shareware by the Association of Shareware Professionals ftp://ftp.tas.gov.au/pc/simtelnet/msdos/info Look for the directory: asp804.zip 500Kb+ in size # RFC and FYI Archive ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/rfc/ but see the index first ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/rfc/fyi-index.txt and ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/rfc/rfc-index.txt __ 7.3 researching research If you are seeking evidence of existing research, you may also wish to consider these resources. Please help if you know more. Australian Research # CSIRO Research Programs and Projects http://www.csiro.au/csiro/csirores.htm # Directory of Western Australia Research and Development http://www.wa.gov.au/commerce/research.html # Australian Rural Research in Progress Commercial Database by CSIRO, Australia # CSIRO Index Citations to publications from CSIRO-sponsored projects # Australian Education Index ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research) # Australian Energy Research in Progress database # University Research Directories International resources # CORDIS - Database of European Research Developments by the EC http://www.cordis.lu/ # SPIN - Database of Research Funding Resources http://spin.web.unsw.edu.au/ # US Federally-Funded Research http://medoc.gdb.org/best/fed-fund.html # CRIS - Current Research Information System (US, Canada and Czech) http://cristel.nal.usda.gov:8080/ # ERIC - Educational Resources http://www.aspensys.com/eric/ # The Research Centers and Services Directory # National Databases of Research also exist for Japan (JICST) and Germany. # See also Gale Directory of Databases (Section 6.2) # See Theses and Dissertations (Section 5.8) # See patents (Section 5.7) __ 7.4 researching as a student Perhaps the students among us will be grateful for these resources. # Computerized Thesis Writing Guides http://www.yahoo.com/business_and_economy/ -> -> Companies/Computers/Software/Writing/ # Referencing Guide - thanks to Edith Cowan University (Australia) http://www.cowan.edu.au/ecuwis/docs/admin/refguide/refguide.html # Summary Notes of Writing for Social Scientists [How to Start and Finish your Thesis, Book, or Article.] http://www.pitt.edu/~malhotra/writing.htm ___________________________________________________ 8. More on the Internet as a research resource Lets agree the Internet is a great resource for surfing, but less valuable when you have a certain question to answer. To find answers, we need to begin by understanding how the information is arranged on the Internet. Contrary to myth, information is not disorganized but rather organized very carefully along clear patterns. Each pattern is differs between the various forms of information. Further, awareness of information moves through several systems. Your understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each pattern, each format, each system, will guide your search for information. I will share two insights here then invite you to the website for more. Insight One: Information tends to clump on the Internet, as with most resources, either by design or by simple habit. The web is not the only source of information and often not the resource where the best information groups. If you routinely browse different Internet systems, you will find certain information is found primarily in certain systems. While much information is drifting to the web, this trend is far from complete. The dominant source of information can usually be explained historically, as websites, ftp-archives, online databases, software, telnet-databases, newsgroups, mailing lists, etc... Insight Two: Information moves from the producers of information to the people who are seeking such information, and the way the information moves defines the resource. This is far more general, and applicable to any information source. Let us use books as an example. Books are created by authors who have something to write. Books are printed and marketed by Publishers to the bookstores who then provide it on to the readers. Each facet of this process defines the resource. Books have quality, editorial vetting, sales value and a potentially lengthy preparation time. Now lets look at FAQs. The best resource in the world on copyright law is the musings of a group of copyright lawyers who form the copyright mailing list. The copyright FAQ supported by this group is a logical document which summarizes much of the discussion of this mailing list. FAQs are vetted by the news.answers team, automatically mirrored around the world, and read by millions. From its origins, the FAQ is a peer-reviewed document, often full of links to further resources, topical, knowledgeable, factual and few in number. Again, the way the information is generated, organized and transmitted deeply affects the information. Your understanding of the relative qualities of information affects both the search process and your analysis of its value. This framework is very valuable when interacting with the Internet and cuts through much of the chaos which is the Internet. As I mentioned, please visit http://cn.net.au for further insights of this kind. ___________________________________________________ 9. More on the Commercial Information Sphere The commercial information sphere existed in the 1970's and earlier. It is far more developed, far better organized, far better funded, almost always far more valuable and expensive than most every other research resource. Commercial information is arranged reasonably uniformly in large databases of full-text or bibliographic information. Some databases are small, single source documents, while others are huge unfoccussed collections of resources. Most directories and journals can be made into a database, but single-source databases do not enjoy much financial success, (except in a local market as in newspapers). To overcome this difficulty, single sources are grouped together into larger collections of databases on a particular topic. These larger database groups become the primary tool for commercial research. Developing these databases requires the assistance and expertise of a range of skills. Sometimes this requires abstracting, interpreting, and as with some Lexis-Nexis databases, expert legal interpretation. Often this is accomplished by large database developers with a range of databases in their portfolio. The marketting and consumer billing of such databases is then provided by a relatively small collection of very large database marketers. As an indication of the size of this market, Knight-Ridder is rumoured to be selling their Dialog & Datastar for a figure approaching half a billion dollars! Thus, we have an industry consisting of a wide collection of players, each improving and developing the information from individual periodicals, journals, news items, etc... All very confusing for the end user, of course. This is elegantly illustrated by the database descriptions for Lexis-Nexis databases (They prefer the term libraries. See http://www.lexis-nexis.com/lncc/sources/libcont/aust.html as an example). Luckily, there are actually very few large databases in existence. Sadly, many single sources exist in different commercial databases. The combinations are not endless, but they most certainly are difficult to understand. Further, different databases sometimes include different information from the same single-source. One database may include just abstracts, another may have fulltext, chemical indexing and more. Most researchers are unfamiliar with what exactly is being searched. This gives rise to great customer loyalty to database marketters, brought on by ignorance and obsfucation. I am even hard pressed to compare prices between access points. Community Networking's first stab at improving this is at http://cn.net.au This system has distributed information for several decades. It is both sophisticated and quite difficult. You will need to become experienced with inverted indexes, search techniques (Boolean, truncation, proximity, field limits ...), and properly phrasing the question in a way which will be answered by a database search. Unfortunately, if you are incompletely skilled at research, you will take longer, pay more and locate far more information or unwisely discard more than necessary. These are very different from searching Altavista and Webcrawler. Doing your own research offers an opportunity to more closely influence the research process. Sometimes only you understand the topic and sometimes you can more quickly discard unimportant details. Certainly it is becoming simpler to undertake some of this work. Many of the commercial databases are also available in a CD format. There are substantial subscription costs which limit their availability to large research institutions and libraries, though individual databases can be found in bookstores (I believe world books in print costs AU$5000+). Provided you can find casual access, it will cost you far less. Keep an eye on the age, though. Sometimes online information is more recent. The decision between undertaking research on your own or seeking external help is really a decision based on your research expertise, your budget, your access to information, your time, and the importance of finding all the information available. It also depends on your access to some decent research assistance. That is your decision. What I do know, is that a newcomer to the commercial information sphere will seriously underestimate the difficulty involved in searching, and underestimate both the cost of research and the cost of research assistance. Keep in mind this same system serves the needs of large commercial conglomerates, professional legal research, and well financed government studies. The commercial information sphere contains far more valuable information than the you need. Often the Internet is just an interesting sneeze in comparison. # Article: The Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes) includes a factual article as a forward, which follows the development of this industry. # Full text databases - by Carol Tenopir and Jung Soon Ro Soon at http://cn.net.au/training/tenopir.html ___________________________________________________ 10. More on the Information Service Industry Private Detectives, Professional Database Researchers, Library Researchers, Legal Researchers, Commercial Database Producers, Commercial Database Marketers, Magazines, News Organizations, Libraries, this is a big industry. Professional Research is just a process which links together those seeking information with those who provide it. __ 10.1 judging information value Information has value. It also has other qualities which will assist you to judge the value of information you may consider buying. Accuracy: the factual nature of the information presented. If the statistics purport to show a particular trend - how large is the margin of error? How large is the sample size? How likely are there to have been factual errors in their development? The measurement of statistical error is now a refined science in some fields. A statistical result can be inaccurate when the sample size is too small, if the margin of error is too large, the sample collection procedure incorrect, or a number of other situations. Reliability: the support for trusting the solutions, both from additional resources and from being able to duplicate the conclusions. This includes the reputation of the researchers. No matter how inaccurate and biased you may believe certain facts to be, successful independent support of a suggested fact does improve its value. If facts can not be duplicated, like cold fussion, they are of less value. Bias: conscious or subconscious influences which affect information. Bias can occur in collection, preparation and presentation of information. Most information you find will be tainted. Secondary information is deeply affected. Statistics are not necessarily less biased. We counter bias in several ways. Firstly, we try to be aware of bias. Where is bias likely? Which direction would the bias affect the information. Secondly, we try to collect information which has different bias. This is why research based solely on government research, no matter how accurate and reliable, is less valueable. Often information from different countries can counter bias. Thirdly, we need to accept bias is likely to exist. This is why primary sources are often more valuable than secondary sources. This is why tertiary sources, like experts, are very likely to be biased. Age: The date information was created or compiled will feature prominently in the value of information. Dates given sometimes mean the date information was created, or the date information was compiled. How old is a book compiled in 1995, which took the author 10 years to finish? I find statistics often forecast information, prominently displaying recent compilation dates but still often use old census data or the like. Worse still, information on the Internet typically has no date. Purpose: purpose merits further discussion. When you are uncertain about potential bias, you can look for reasons to distrust the information instead. Suspicion is not equivalent to bias, but it can be thought provoking. Privately, I have heard repeated rumours that important national statistics have been fudged in different countries. A government research report investigating the price of books in Australia would have a political purpose, a purpose which provides the climate for some potentially significant bias. A tell-all book by industry experts often include a tremendous quality of insider experience difficult to find elsewhere. While there may be a purpose of self-agrandizement, the purpose is less a climate for significant bias. Medical research has perhaps the greatest climate for significant bias, and this suggests the greatest standard of proof and external, reliable support. This explanation of accuracy, reliability, bias, age and purpose is very important in research. This is what leads us to an appraisal of value. For years, the tobacco industry funded 'independent' research finding smoking minimally harmful to health. It is now likely there may have been errors brought on by accuracy, and bias. Certain purpose was in doubt. As other studies showed smoking in harmful, we can also say this research lacked certain facets of reliability. Research about the future of the Internet is perpetually suspect because it also ages so very quickly. Once you are aclimatized to these elements, you begin to see potential for error in a whole range of information. Real-Estate association figures, expert opinions, Toothpaste advertisements and National GDP figures all occassionally display some degree of warping and manipulation, clouding the truth. The solution is awareness, comparison and careful analysis. As a personal aside, this is part of the reason for my personal dislike for market research: it is often taken far more seriously than warranted and mean far less than is suggested. __ 10.2 buying information assistance If you decide external help is advisable, what next? Sadly, this is not an easy question to answer. I will attempt this in a later version of this FAQ ___________________________________________________ 11. Emerging Trends in the information sphere I will outline three emerging trends whose impact is not fully understood. Firstly, for the past few years, individual database owners/maintainers have been flirting with the idea of making paid access available through the Internet, rather than the existing system of allowing database marketing firms to promote and market their databases. This is not commercially viable yet... but some have emerged with alternative funding despite this (Library of Congress, ERIC, see section 6.2). Others are creeping in around the edges by offering subscribers access at a much reduced flat annual fee (Computer Select at one time). I expect to see much more of this once a meaningful way to charge by the page emerges - which despite the hype appears to be some time away. A second trend is Internet publishing itself. Gradually, the information is getting easier to locate (don't laugh please - its undignified). We are also getting better at using the Internet as a tool to disseminate information. Emerging from these efforts are the very visible, if perhaps short-lived, search engines, but also other efforts like archives of FAQs, archives of guidebooks, applying the dewey decimal system to the Internet, specialist directories, specialist search engines and more ensure this will be a lively field for several years to come. As it gets easier to locate the good information, perhaps the lines between commercial quality and Internet quality will begin to merge. I have seen some promising plans for raising the quality of Internet information. Thirdly, there is this very interesting prospect of paying for information by the page through the Internet - and viewing the results in a web page immediately. There are many technical hurdles yet, but certain elements are already appearing, including ventures like DialogWeb, but much more is in the future. This step may prove profitable for ATM vendors and owners of Internet cafes, pubs and kiosks. It may also herald a dramatic drop in the cost of information. ___________________________________________________ 12. Education and Training in Professional Research Practice, Guidance and Facts are required to become better at research. None of these is particularly hard to get, just the time and effort to get better, for just like an artist, professional research is a lifetime study made more complicated by a moving target. __ 12.1 Facts Facts on professional research are relatively easy to find. Making some coherent sense of them takes practice. You will want to learn of each