Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using the Internet

Key in all the discussions about "banning" the Internet is that it is a vast storehouse of information and that much of that information "past nit" for frum Jews. For some people they imagine that by merely getting on the Internet one will be exposed to all kinds of things that one shouldn't be exposed to.

Key to those comments is that most people, yes even those who consider themselves Internet savvy, don't know how to use the Internet as a research tool. I give you an item to research. What's the first thing you are going to do? If you are like the vast majority of people, you will head straight for Google or Yahoo. You will type in your search term. And you will choose something from the first articles on the first page that comes up. A very, very few people will go to the second screen. Sigh.

I teach Internet research in my courses. Let me give you a little bit of information that might broaden your research horizons. If you are really a newby to Internet research, go to They offer information and links to help in Internet researching.

On that listing is This is one of the finest meta search engines available. It's clustered search results are a time saving tool for the researcher, as are its top sources. (Was known as vivisimo before)

Want to know about search engines and all the possibilities? Go to They not only list all the search engines available world wide but rank them, discuss them and in general give you some great research information.

If the information you are looking for is something that our government is interested in--and our government is interested in just about everything--go to This is an entrance portal to the databases maintained by the US government and is searchable.

Interested in knowing a lot about places outside of the US?

Do you have a library card? At least in NYC if you do, using your bar code from your library card, you can access online zillions of pieces of information contained in the library.

Keep this fact in mind: only about up to 40% of the information available on the Internet will be found on the biggest/best of the general search engines. Using a meta search engine will increase the amount of information, as meta search engines search search engines. Still, there is a lot of information you will never see or get to--what is called the "hidden" web-- unless you learn more about how to use the tool we call the Internet.

Better living through better research.


Lion of Zion said...

no comments yet? i didn't figure your readership to be the sort that would all of a sudden abide by the internet ban

"I teach Internet research in my courses"

is it really a good idea to teach students to maximize internet research. it just means you will be getting even more cut-and-paste papers.

ProfK said...

Just because it's on the Internet does not make something an acceptable site for academic research. I teach my students about domain ranking and I also teach my students site evaluation and how to use primary and secondary sources. For instance, in our department the Wikipedia is not an acceptable source. If a student wants to use the Wiki to find primary sources and then goes to those sources, then okay, as long as those primary sources meet the qualifications for good sources. We also have a requirement in our department that no more than half of a paper's sources may be from the Internet.

Re the cut and paste papers, our college has Turn It In available online for all teaching staff. Scan in a student paper and TII utilizes its mega search engine to bring up and highlight any material in the paper that has appeared anywhere on the Internet, including the paper mill sites. Teachers can then evaluate how that material was used, and if it comes from acceptable sources. Our department has a rule of thumb--2 to 1: for every quoted or paraphrased piece of information used in a paper there must be twice as much exposition on the part of the student. Instructors in the program I supervise also spot check Internet references on the Works Cited pages.

Frankly, the cut and paste papers become a problem only with that staff that is "older" and perhaps not as aware of academic research online. We offer a number of workshops to get that staff up to speed.

The Internet is a useful tool in research; it is not the only tool and we teach about the other tools as well. But no school can afford to ignore the Internet; there is just too much on it to dismiss it as garbage.

Lion of Zion said...

i humbly disagree about the importance of internet research tools for the average college undergraduate.

but anyway, i'd like to see TII used on teachers' teaching materials as well. teachers are also guilty of plagiarizing syllabi, lecture notes and handouts, even from, yes . . . wikipedia

Lion of Zion said...

ProfK said...

The site you gave me has some interesting mentions of new search possibilities, but the searchme that they highlight is nowhere near as good a search engine as clusty/vivisimo.

Re the plagiarism by teachers, I'm not saying that it does not exist, but you need to keep in mind that many syllabi, notes and handouts are departmentally recommended/required, so there is going to be what seems to be "copying" by some teachers of other teacher's material. Some departments have developed the syllabi that must be used by all teachers teaching a particular course. And many teachers readily share their course information with colleagues in the same school or in other schools. I was once given 5 hours notice that I was teaching a particular course. I'd never taught it before and had virtually no time to research for handouts, nor for the first few class lectures. An instructor who had taught the course before graciously shared her information with me. Members of a professional group that I belong to routinely share material they have found/developed with others in the group. Some instructors who lend material to others ask that their name be included as originator; others don't care or don't want their name on your material.

Many instructors routinely post information, syllabi, handouts, lecture notes on the Internet. They may ask that you give them credit if you are using their material.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with ProfK on this Loz. I'm out of NYC and the college I teach in and the department (History) have mandated course curriculi for all introductory and/or required courses. The readings are set by the department as well. Instructors frequently share course lecture notes, particularly when one has a very effective lecture that s/he has come up with. Far from being plagiarism it's an attempt to standardize a basic course so that any student, taking the course with any instructor, is getting the same course.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Prof. The Internet is a vast source of information, much left unmined, unfortunately. We need to prepare our students to research properly even at the elemetary school level. We try to do that at our school. LoZ, sharing is pretty common and--I think--pretty healthy.

Anonymous said...

Two things are puzzling me. Are you saying that google only has 40% of all informtion out there? And I admit my ignorance--just what is the hidden web? And if it's hidden why should it concern me?

ProfK said...

We only have an estimate as to how many pages there actually are on the World Wide Web. One reason for this is because pages are added on a constant basis, and subtracted as well. Another reason is because of that "hidden" or "deep" web.

First, the spiders or bots, the means by which a search engine gathers information on the web, have a limited capacity. They need to report back to the engine within a certain amount of time so that pages can be updated. They have a lot of territory to cover and they cannot cover all that territory within their time constraints. As each search engine has its own criteria for how information is to be gathered, no one engine can gather it all.

Another reason these bots cannot gather all the information is that they are not "thinking" beings. They can walk into rooms that are open to them and gather information, but they cannot enter where the doors are locked against them. They do not have the keys to unlock the doors.

The deep web is like a doorman apartment building on one level. You cannot get into the building unless you have gotten permission from one of the residents. The apartments are locked unless one of the residents will let you in or unless you can produce a key. On another level, the deep web is like an exclusive gated community. The security to get in is even higher than in that doorman building. On another level the deep web is like an exclusive country club. You have to pay in order to join it.

The New York Times has an online site. For free you can see part of the printed edition of the paper for a few days. If you wish to search the archives, you will have to pay for that privelege. Ditto with many other publications. Lexis-Nexis is a proprietary data base--an excellent one--that is only available online if you pay mega bucks for the privelege. College libraries provide access to their students and staffs to many data bases that are otherwise only available through monetary subscription. Your university ID #s are your password to get into these databases through the school's virtual library.

This blog is part of the open web and could be accessed by a bot, leaving you, as reader, able to find the information on the web. Consumer Reports Online, for instance, is by subscription only and the bots cannot get at the information contained there to publish it on the open web.

Why should you care about the hidden web? Because a great deal of worthwhile and important information can only be found there, not on the open web.

Anonymous said...

"The New York Times has an online site. For free you can see part of the printed edition of the paper for a few days. If you wish to search the archives, you will have to pay"

Searching is free. In the past you had to pay to see results beyond a few lines, however that has changed. I don't recall if it is totally free now, but at the least, subscribers to the NYT get a nice amount of use of the archives free of charge. Also, some libraries have it available to the public free of charge, e.g. at their main branches.

ProfK said...

Yes, subscribers to the print edition of the Times and those using the public library get to search the archives. But you are paying for that privelege one way or the other. Either you are paying for a print subscription or the library is paying for access to the archives. But they are not searchable by general run of the mill search engines. You can't get to all the archives by merely going to google or yahoo.

A Living Nadneyda said...

By eighth grade my parents would drop me off at the local university library to research my term papers. They'd show me the card catalog (remember that one), hook me up with a librarian who could assist me with the newspaper microfiche, and help me make photocopies of relevant books (in those days that was the only way to continue to access the information from home). What a learning experience.

Thanks for all the fantastic resources. I can't wait to dig in.


Anonymous said...

Years ago in the financial services company that I work for each of us was subscribed to at least 6-12 print newspapers and magazines and special bulletins that would keep us up to date in our field. Our company paid for these subscriptions and it was pricey. Thanks to the Internet and databases available by subscription online, we all can still access up to date information without all the individual subscriptions. Saves time, money and storage space, not to mention paper. And there is lots more information available to us now.