Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1998

Book Reviews

Searching Smart on the World Wide Web: Tools and Techniques for Getting Quality Results

Gregory K. Raschke
Reference Librarian
Library & Information Center
Georgia Institute of Technology

Searching Smart on the World Wide Web: Tools and Techniques for Getting Quality Results. Cheryl Gould. Internet Workshop Series Number 8. Berkeley: Library Solutions Press, 1998. 90 p. $40.00 (ISBN 1-882208-28-5)

The fluid and at times confusing nature of the World Wide Web has led to a number of publications intended to assist users in navigating such a massive resource. The immense body of literature already in existence may lead some to question the need for additional works about the Web, but Cheryl Gould provides a valuable tool to assist people in effectively searching the Web. This book does not attempt to provide a complete summary of the Web. Rather, it focuses directly on providing a "workshop in a book" with practical techniques and examples. The step by step approach, carefully selected exercises, and specific focus on successful searching help set this book apart from the abundance of works available.

The concise writing style and detailed organization allow readers to easily follow the author's instructional methodology as well as proceed to specific chapters or examples. Users do not have to read the book in any particular order and can refer to each section independently as necessary. Although Searching Smart provides some general background information on the Web as well as describing its basic structure and protocol, the most valuable information comes in later chapters that discuss various search methods. The book covers introductory search techniques as well as more advanced methods such as planning a search strategy, combining concepts to narrow a search, choosing the appropriate search tool, and properly analyzing and selecting results. Gould also includes a comprehensive index and copious notes along with appendices that provide quick references to features of various subject directories and search engines. A diskette with useful bookmarks is also included.

The text is primarily designed as a training book for learners with varying degrees of experience. A secondary audience includes trainers looking for a general instruction model and specific examples to assist in the design of Web searching workshops. By beginning with introductory information about the Web and gradually moving from basic to more advanced search techniques, Gould addresses a broad range of skill levels. As a result, the text runs into the same problem as most Web workshops and instructional guides: how to address the needs of an audience with varying skill levels without boring the more experienced users or confusing the beginners. For the most part, Gould successfully handles the problem by dividing the book into distinct sections that the reader can quickly browse to locate relevant information. The plethora of basic exercises provides valuable practice for beginners, but more experienced readers will find them monotonous.

Although specific sections of the text may prove tedious for some readers, the book avoids categorizing the Web only as it presently exists while providing general search methods that will prove useful for users now and in the future. The author's extensive experience as a trainer for Library Solutions is evident from the organized and informative text. Although experienced Web users (as opposed to beginning or intermediate users) may not find the text especially useful, Searching Smart can be recommended to anyone looking for practical guidance or a well designed instructional model on searching the Web. Gould's intended purpose is to show readers how to locate relevant information on the Web in an efficient manner, and for the most part, she achieves that goal.


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