Because the Internet is so widely used, a lot of information is just about one click away. You can find out pretty much anything, from the mundane how to get around in a city you’ve never seen before to what the meaning of a semi-colon is in computer programming.
Here is a step-by-step strategy on what to do to get the best results in a short time. Of course, depending on the topic of your research, you should adapt these steps to better suit your needs.
First, type www.google.com; it may sound cliched, but most searches do begin with Google. Of course, if you prefer other search engines, there is an entire array of them.
Second, try to identify some key words in your search. For instance, you would like to know how to convert inches into centimeters. Your key words would be “convert inch centimeter”. If you want to find a Chinese restaurant in Detroit, use “Chinese restaurant Detroit”. Notice the avoidance of common words, like the, an, in, of, to and so on. Using them will not hurt your search, but you end up typing more. Also, in most cases you would not include the quotation marks in your search strings.
Third, enter these key words in your search engine. Most of the time, one of the top results will give you a good start. If you don’t find anything of good use, think about revising your key words. The results list should guide you with this. This is when you can also try to include a short quote in your search, to help narrow down the two million or so results that the search engine returned: for instance, “Orion constelation”, “Pittsburgh movie theater” or “mother of the groom dresses” should be helpful. A quick word of caution in using quotes says that if your phrase is too long, you are unlikely to find anything as the search engine will look for the exact wording that you entered if it is between quotation marks. On the other side, if you want to know who said that “dreaming is a private thing”, using the quote as such will give you the correct answer in an instant.
If you were looking for some quick facts, these steps should be enough. However, if you want to learn more about a certain subject, the steps above give you just a quick glance.
A good starting point for reading more about your subject would be Wikipedia, but don’t take everything in there for granted. However, the information you can get there is quite comprehensive for most subjects, and it gives you the advantage of suggesting more websites to visit, especially if the article is correctly documented. You should see some warnings at the top of the page in the cases where the article was disputed, or where the information is considered incomplete.
Another way of learning about your topic is scrolling down through the results provided by the search engine. Take a look at the url for these results, as well as the title As a general rule, avoid the blog entries as they are likely to offer a one-sided perspective. Look instead for articles that come from official-looking websites, newspapers, magazines, or university portals. Also, it is likely that your search will require more than one source, so try to find two or three that look legit in order to lower the risk of receiving false information.
As a final advice, you should make sure you have an anti-virus installed on your computer, as well as a firewall. There are many websites that will give you good, reliable information, but there are also quite a few that will try to install malware on your computer with bad intentions.