The Tools of a Web Researcher

This is our continuing series on how a web researcher works (at least how I do mine). Today we will focus on basic tools. You can use other websites and software but basically for simple searches, these are all you need.

a. Search Engine

Primarily I use Google and most of the examples here utilized the latter in solving search problems. However, you can also use other search engines and in fact as you read along you will discover that you should utilize the one appropriate for the task.

I suggest you use the one with which you are more comfortable with. If it is Yahoo it’s ok just as long you don’t limit yourself to it each and every situation. Using your preferred search engine enables you to learn its more advanced inner workings. However, there is also a reason why lots of people use the more popular search engines since they simply produce results. So in case you are not using one of the top search sites, it might be worthwhile to be comfortable with them as well.

As you go along you will discover that the more important stuff is the thought process as I discussed previously and technology only comes in second.

b. Download the latest plug-ins and readers

Isn’t it frustrating that at times the website, wherein the information is found cannot be displayed properly by your browser? When doing research on the web, it is inevitable that you will come across different websites that have the information in audio or video and other files in different formats.

This book assumes that you are already familiar with browsers like Internet Explorer so aside from search engines, plug-ins and readers are the most important tools for the web researcher. Plug-ins are add-on tools to your web browser (like Internet Explorer, Netscape or Firefox) that enables you to view and even hear information in different formats. Here are the most plug-ins and readers that you will need to download:

  1. Acrobat Reader – A very good pdf file reader. Most case studies and academic papers are in pdf formats.
  2. Flash Player – Not just for fun cartoons or games, some websites produce a wealth of information on data produced as flash animations. Usually instead of powerpoint presentations they put them in flash.
  3. Updated versions of Windows Media Player, Real Audio and Quicktime – If ever you need to hear the information as an audio file, you will need these players.
  4. Viewers for Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint – You only need these in case you don’t have Microsoft office installed in your computers.

I arranged the software above in order of importance based on my personal experience. These are the types of files that you will encounter the most. Another thing, please have an anti-virus software since some of these files might be infected and could do harm to your system.

One Response to “The Tools of a Web Researcher”

  1. eiffel says:

    You can always use OpenOffice to view Excel, Word and Powerpoint files. OpenOffice is open-source software that can be downloaded and used for free.

    Not everyone runs Windows; many people run Linux, BSD, Solaris, Mac OS X etc. Linux comes with built-in PDF viewers but, depending what country your Linux distribution comes from, viewers for some multimedia formats may not be included. Stanton Finley has a webpage that walks you through the process of adding support for other formats to Fedora Core 5 Linux.