Searching the Internet
Basically the Internet is a combination of thousands of computers and connections - radio, cable and satellite which link them together. The Internet is one of the world's fast growing communication developments, and has created many information resources that can be of value to everyone who needs to stay ahead in their own specialism.
Making the best use of these resources takes time. Just as no one book will give all the answers to a question, you may not find the information which you need from looking at just one web site such as OSH WORLD. The following gives you a variety of other sources that you can make use of in order to answer your queries. It also gives you some tips when searching, to save you time and costs.
If you do find what you want elsewhere, please let us know so that we can add it into these pages and share with others around the world! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Connecting to the Internet
- How to Search Effectively
- Mailing Lists
- Search Engines
- Boolean Logic Operators
Connecting to the Internet
Connecting to the Internet need not be expensive. Because of the flexibility of the Internet, the hardware specifications for a computer to be use to connect to the Internet are minimal. New computers are now generally "Internet ready". The choice of connection and setup will be determined by individual preferences. The local computer store or Internet service provider you choose will help you decide.
Once you have selected a computer with appropriate networking hardware there are choices for the connection. It will depends on your organisation's policies. Many organisations limit the use of the Internet, but if your organisation does allow connection your computer section will be able to help you get started.
If you are connecting from home, then the many services such as CompuServe or Pipex will provide the software and connection instructions.
Many people find the jargon and acronyms surrounding the Internet confusing. The following will help:
The World Wide Web or WWW or "The Web" consists of documents which have been turned into web pages which are stored on computers around the Internet. These pages are interconnected by hypertext links. Each group of related pages in one location on the network is called a web site. Information on any of these pages can be in any data format including text, graphics, tables, sounds and movie clips. Pages are written in the HyperText Markup Language (HTML). HTML is text with embedded codes (tags) that represent instructions for the display of the text and any images.
URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator (pronounced YU-AHR-EHL) is the address of a computer file or resource accessible on the Internet. Sometime you may find reference to URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) or URN (Uniform Resource Name) which are the same as URL.
These are a string of letters and punctuation in a set format. The URL contains the name of the protocol required to access the resource, a domain name that identifies a specific computer on the Internet, and a hierarchical description of a file location on the computer.
On the Web (which uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol), examples of URLs are:
The last example shows a specific name of the resource, (in this case niosh) hence http://www.cdc.gov/niosh
How to Search Effectively
Getting the best results from your searches. The following may help when searching for occupational, safety, health, fire, chemical and environment (OSHE) information on the Internet.
1. Clear searching
Develop a clear understanding of what you need from your information search. Be clear whether you are looking for general information or something very specific.
2. Terms, keywords etc.
When searching, think of:
- related terms (both broader and narrower)
- other chemical names
- differences in English and American terminology, e.g. fume cupboards and fume hoods
3. Search Tips
Read the help or search tips when you are using any of the Search Engines listed below, because many people only look at the first 10 'hits' on any retrieved lists.
If you are unsure of the spelling think about the variations, especially the different spellings found in American and English information.
e.g. centre/center; sulphur/sulfur; fume cupboards/fume hoods
5. Boolean operators
Using what is known as Boolean operators - the words AND, OR and NOT can make a big difference to the results of your search. You will get much closer to what you are seeking by using these sophisticated operators.
Boolean Logic Operators
Named after the mathematician George Boole who invented them. He used the operators AND, OR and NOT to express logical processes. Use what is known as Boolean operations - the words AND, OR and NOT can make a big difference to the results of your search. You will get much closer to what you are seeking by using these sophisticated operators. More information Boolean operations are in the following section.
Do you know any author(s) working in this subject?
By using the author's name, you may retrieve other references to similar work on the subject of your choice.
Is there an institution or competent authorit(ies) known to have done some work in
Again try using the name, you may retrieve even more references.
8. Other sources
Any journals/indexing/abstracting service(s) specialising in the subject which are
known to you?
Again you can add these to your search.
9. Any information Centre(s) specialising in the subject?
This is similar to author searches because these information centres may well have produced a publication on the subject.
10. Other databases, databanks, CD-ROMs, floppy discs, either full text or bibliographic
May well be indexed e.g. other search engines, so if you cannot find any information which you are seeking, look on another search engine or similar site which has lots of links. This will act as a 'hot link' for you to explore other material you may not otherwise have found. As an example, look at www.oshworld.com and under the country index and the click onto the USA and go to US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health where you will find many sources of information.
11. Don't just stick to one search engine
Bookmark a variety and see what they come up with. Explore the ones listed below as part of your research and then decide which are the best ones for your work.
12. Search strategy
Work out a search strategy before starting your search. Many search engines offer ways of refining your search and it will save time and money in the long run, for example decide:
- how far back in time is the information needed? You will save time by limiting your search.
- which authoritative sites you wish to search
- decide on language e.g. English only, which again will save time and money
- decide on the words and phrases to be used. Remember to use both English and the language of the site
- refine your search. Most search engines offer two types of search - "basic" and "advanced" or "refined". In the "basic" search, just enter a keyword without going through any additional options. Some search engines are so powerful that often you get good results with a minimum number of keywords.
- automatic exclusion of common words. Most search engines ignore common words and characters such as "where" and "how", as well as certain single digits and single letters, because they tend to slow down the search without improving the results. Some search engines such as Google will indicate if a common word has been excluded by displaying details on the results page below the search box.
- If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, you can include it by putting a "+" sign in front of it. (Be sure to include a space before the "+" sign.) The one exception to this is "the", which is so common it is not considered in searches.
The results may offer you the full text of the documents presented in different file formats. The documents could be in any of the following formats, and will have the relevant indication, e.g. ergonomics.doc for a document in Microsoft Word software or injuries.rtf if presented as a rich text file:
- Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf)
- Adobe Postscript (.ps)
- Microsoft Word (.doc)
- Microsoft Excel (.xls)
- Microsoft Powerpoint (.ppt)
- Rich Text Format (.rtf)
Ready to start?
Now you are ready to start your searching, once you have logged onto the Internet Service Provider (ISP) successfully you should be offered a "box" in which you can put your search. If you are looking for Health and Safety Executive web site enter:
Remember then to press your Enter key on your key pad to activate the search.
Some services may have the word GO immediately after the box, if so the click onto it, again to activate the service.
13. Action if you cannot find a page
There may be a number of reasons why you cannot locate a "home page" which you have used before. They may have been removed completely, or has its name changed, or be temporarily unavailable. The following actions could be tried:
- make sure you have typed in the home page correctly, could be a spelling mistake
- if some specific page is not suddenly available, open the main home page and then look for the link because it may have been re-linked
- if the above actions fail, go into one of the search engines, e.g. www.google.com and look for the information again.
Newsgroups make up Usenet which can be thought of as the Internet's distributed bulletin boards. A number of these cover the area of Health and Safety. Here are some examples of the URLs to be keyed into the search box on your system:
You may need to contact your systems administrator or Internet Service Provider to obtain access to these Usenet newsgroups. Alternatively, you can search newsgroup messages by using one of the following web-based search engines which specifically store and index Usenet newsgroup messages.
Mailing Lists (run by list servers) are similar to newsgroups; the major difference being that new messages are sent to your mailbox directly.
You can find JISCmail lists in your field of interest by searching the Category Pages or using the Keyword Search feature. There are also A-Z Indexes.
Internet Search Engines
There are several search engines available across the Internet, and some of the most popular are as follows:
Boolean Logic Operators
These operators were named after the mathematician George Boole who invented them. He used the operators AND, OR and NOT to express logical processes.
Boolean logic represents a fundamental principle in searching information.
The means by which the terms used to describe the search topic are combined in a logical relationship.
This means you can use Boolean expressions to combine your search terms in a way that will give you relevant results.
Basically, the AND operator and the NOT operator will LIMIT your search results. The OR operator will INCREASE the number of records you find.
The AND Operator
Use the Boolean Operator AND between two search items in your search when you wish to combine search terms and to narrow your search results.
The AND operator requires that both search terms be in the same record. For example, the search statement Methane and Mines retrieves just those records containing both methane and mines. Records containing only one of the terms are not retrieved.
The NOT Operator
Use the Boolean operator NOT with a term in the main screen to limit you search by excluding records containing that term.
E.g. Mines not Methane retrieves records containing Mines but excludes those containing methane.
The NOT operator can be useful in eliminating false hits (occurrences of your term that do not satisfy your search request).
But be careful ... NOT should be used with caution since it can also eliminate relevant records. E.g. Mines NOT Methane may also lose relevant records discussing both mines and methane.
The OR Operator
The OR Operator can be used to broaden your search by letting you search for more than one term at a time.
OR is particularly useful for searching synonymous terms.
How to Search with the OR operator
If you want to find records containing information on a number of different chemicals, type them in and link them with the OR operator. For example: Mercury or Cadmium or Benzene or Ethylene
To carry out a comprehensive search, think of all the likely synonyms; type them in and link them with the OR operator. For example: Visual display unit* or VDU* or Visual Display terminal* VDT or Cathode Ray Tube* or CRT* or Display screen equipment or DSE
NEAR, FOLLOWED and ADJ Operator
Not all search engines allow you to use "proximity locators" such as NEAR and FOLLOWED BY. NEAR means that the keyword(s) you enter should be within a certain number of words of each other, e.g. confined spaces.
FOLLOWED BY means that one term MUST directly follow the other e.g. visual display equipment
ADJ for adjacent is exactly the same as FOLLOWED BY
Many of the search engines will give you results with a relevancy ranking. This means that the search engine has listed the "hits" according to how close it thinks the search matches your enquiry. But a word of warning, the results may not be what you are really seeking. Some Search Engines are better than others, with experience you will find those that bring the best results in your subject area.
Use of the asterisk e.g. comp* will find references containing words starting with comp such as computer, computers, computing.
Note that some search engine only search for exactly the words you enter in the search box and do not offer "stem" or "wildcard" word searching . If in doubt enter both singular and plural, e.g. "airline" and "airlines". Read the "hints and tips" information for each of the different search engines.