Power Tools for Technical Communication:
Information Search Guide

Use this guide to explore information resources in general or to find information resources for a writing project. When you are through, you can e-mail this search information to yourself, your instructor, or both.

Note: All of the links below open a separate browser window so that you can copy information and paste it in the boxes below. Just remember to close those separate windows as you finish with them.

  1. What am I really looking for? In the box below, list your topic as one or more questions, and take notes on what kind of information you need (descriptions, technical information, history, analysis) and which aspects of the topic you want to focus on:

  2. What are the keywords (search terms)? In the box below, list the keywords related to your topic:

  3. What's the time frame? In the box below, take notes on the period of time your topic is likely to have the most activity, and thus the most information resources:

  4. Which information resources? Take some notes on which information resources (Internet, books, encyclopedias, magazines, journals, newsletters, product brochures, white papers, government documents, newspapers, etc.) are likely to have the best information topic and why:

  5. Informal unpublished nonprint sources? In the box below, take notes on local experts you could interviews, knowledgeable individuals you could e-mail inquiries to, local facilities you could investigate, or surveys or questionnaires you could use:

  6. Boolean and other special search techniques?As you may have read in Power Tools for Technical Communication, Boolean searches, proximity searches, phrase searches, and truncated search terms are useful in narrowing your search reults. In the box below, take notes on how you might use these special search techniques.

    Note: See Austin Community College's "Searching the World Wide Web" at lrs.austin.cc.tx.us/research/engines.htm or InfoPeople Project's "Search Engines Quick Guide" at infopeople.org/src/guide.html for additional information on searches.

  7. Find a guide site on the Internet. A "guide" site contains links carefully selected and organized by real people—often by librarians, professors, and subject experts. Try finding a subject-specific guide site related to your topic at Google at www.google.com, and take notes on what you find below:

  8. What about general and "meta" search engines? Try finding information on your topic in general search engines such as Altavista at www.altavista.com, Excite at www.excite.com, Google at www.google.com, Hotbot at hotbot.lycos.com, Infoseek at infoseek.go.com, and Lycos at www.lycos.com and in "meta" search engines such as Inference Find at www.infind.com, Dogpile at www.dogpile.com, MetaCrawler at www.metacrawler.com, and Savvy Search at www.savvysearch.com. Take notes on what you find in the box below:

  9. What about specialized search engines? Try specialized search engines such as Deja.com at www.deja.com and Reference.com at www.reference.com (for newsgroups, forums, and other such), Northern Light at www.northernlight.com (for journal articles and other publications), SearchEdu.com (for educational sites only), and SearchGov.com (for U.S. federal and state government sites):

  10. What about encyclopedias and other reference books? Start with a current "general" encyclopedia such as the Britannica, World Book or Americana (and especially their "yearbooks") and look for articles related to your topic. Try online encyclopedias or resources for finding online encyclopedias such as Encyclopędia Britannica at www.britannica.com, Internet Public Library at www.ipl.org/ref/RR/static/ref2500.html, Refdesk.com: Encyclopedias at www.refdesk.com/factency.html, and Michigan Electronic Library (MEL) at mel.lib.mi.us/reference/REF-encyclopedias.html:

  11. What about books? To find books related to your topic, try the Library Web-Based OPACS page provided by webCATS at www.lights.com/webcats; lib-web-cats at staffweb.library.vanderbilt.edu/breeding/libwebcats.html; StudyWeb Library at http://www.studyweb.com/library/; Library Information Services from Refdesk.com at www.refdesk.com/factlib.html; and of course the Library of Congress at catalog.loc.gov. Take notes on what you find in the box below:

  12. What about magazines and journals? Go to a library and search Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature for articles on your topic. While you are there, find one or more indexes devoted to a single discipline or field (for example, Engineering Index, Applied Science, Technology Index, Art Index, Biological Agricultural Index, Business Periodicals Index, Education Index, Essay and General Literature Index, General Science Index, Humanities Index, Social Sciences Index, and Biology Digest). See if your library has these online indexes: MasterFILE Premier, Periodical Abstracts. Also search Internet-based indexes for magazines and journals in NorthernLight.com and Internet Public Library at www.ipl.org/reading/serials. Take notes on what you find in the box below:

  13. What about newspapers and television news? Try finding materials on your topic at Internet Public Library at www.ipl.org/reading/news, Refdesk.com at www.refdesk.com, AJR Newslink from American Journalism Review at www.newslink.org, TotalNews at www.totalnews.com, Newspapers Online at www.newspapers.com, ABC News at www.abcnews.com, CBS News at www.cbs.com, NBC News at www.nbc.com /A>, CNN at www.cnn.com, C-SPAN at www.c-span.org, CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, at www. cbc.ca, BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, at news.bbc.co.uk, ZDNet at www.zdnet.com (good for product reviews and particular industry developments), Newslibrary at www.newslibrary.com, News Index at www.newsindex.com. Take notes on what you find in the box below:

  14. What about government documents? Before you search for government documents related to your topic, be sure to read the section on government documents in Power Tools for Technical Communication carefully. To search for government documents, try FedWorld at www.fedworld.gov, the National Technical Information Service at www.ntis.gov, the Thomas Legislative Information on the Internet at thomas.loc.gov, Federal Government Information Resources developed by Jonathan Buckstead at Austin Community College lrs.austin.cc.tx.us/research/w3/Soc_Sci/gov/govfed.htm Columbia University Libraries' U.S. Government Documents Ready Reference Collection at www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/indiv/dsc/readyref.html, FedStats at www.fedstats.gov, U.S. Government Printing Office's "Official Federal Government Information at Your Fingertips" at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs topic listings at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/sale/sale180.html and at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/pathbrws.html, and finally the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html. Take notes on what you find in the box below:

  15. What about brochures and other product literature? Try using the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers at www2.thomasregister.com to see what companies are related to your topic; takes notes on what you find in the box below:

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