Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
faqs.org - Internet FAQ Archives

Professional Research FAQ v.1.3


[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Airports ]
Archive-name: internet/pro-research-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: Jul 26, 1997
URL: http://cn.net.au
Copyright: (c) 1997 David Novak
Maintainer: David Novak <david@cn.net.au>

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
                        Professional Information Research FAQ

    This FAQ serves to highlight the methods, the resources and the skills
    used in professional information research with particular interest in
    the role of the Internet as both a reservoir and gateway to information
    resources.

    This FAQ is for researchers who have access to the Internet.

    Research without the computer is research undertaken with books,
    articles, interviews, librarians and outside research assistance.
    Research with the computer includes more online databases and Internet
    websites, as well as books, articles, interviews, etcetera. Many
    resources suggested here have alternative paper sources not mentioned in
    the belief that Internet or commercial database links are preferred.
    This computer bias is unavoidable.

    You may have experience in professional information research and I am
    more than interested to act as a clearing-house for information,
    questions and advice. Please direct them to David Novak -
    david@cn.net.au

    A much altered version of this FAQ is available at http://cn.net.au
    where I am pioneering alternative ways to present information on this
    topic. This FAQ is relatively concise as more information is available
    at this website.

    Disclaimer: - This document is provided as is without any express or
    implied warranties. While effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy
    of the information contained in this FAQ, the author or contributors
    assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages
    resulting from the use of the information contained herein. The contents
    of this FAQ reflect my opinions only and not necessarily those of
    Community Networking, or its supporters.


                                Contents 

     1. What is Professional Information Research?
     2. What does the Internet have to do with Professional Research?
     3. Research : Step One : Frame the Question / Visualize the Answer
     4. Research : Step Two : Select the Tools
     5. Research Worthy Resources:  Vectors
           5.1 books                5.6 statistics
           5.2 articles             5.7 patents
           5.3 primary experience   5.8 theses
           5.4 websites             5.9 further research sources
           5.5 newsprint
     6. Research Worthy Resources:  Venues
           6.1 libraries            6.6 associations
           6.2 research databases   6.7 periodicals
           6.3 secondary experience 6.8 Internet search engines
           6.4 government           6.9 Internet discussion groups
           6.5 faqs                 6.10 further meta-resources
     7. Specialty Research Resources
           7.1 legal research       7.2 computer field research
           7.3 researching research 7.4 researching as a student
     8. More on the Internet as a research resource
     9. More on the Commercial Information Sphere
    10. More on the Information Service Industry
          10.1 judging information value
          10.2 buying information assistance
    11. Emerging Trends in the information sphere
    12. Education and Training in Professional Research
          12.1 Facts               12.3 Guidance
          12.2 Practice
    13. Question and Answer Section
          13.1 How do I find information on the Internet?
    14. Acknowledgments
    ___________________________________________________

 1. What is Professional Information Research?

    What indeed? I prefer to think of Professional Research as an effort to
    locate answers, efficiently. Professional Research is not that vague
    browsing of available information for something which interests you, nor
    is it Internet Surfing. Professional Research is the real research...
    and it is hard work.

    Professional Research is also an art form. The skills, tools, and
    resources we work with are only the canvass and paints of an artist. It
    extends from commercial, legal, reporting, through the skills of
    interviewing, database searching, and research analysis using books,
    articles, experts, patents. Professional Research is so large a field,
    involving so many skills, tools and resources, you will quickly find you
    do not wish to learn it all. The basic motto: "Someone, somewhere,
    probably knows something you want to know."

    In this FAQ, I will try to inform you about this exciting field which
    most people do occasionally, and occasionally do well. I will also link
    to many of the better resources both on the Internet and further afield.
    For an alternative entry to this topic, consider visiting
    http://cn.net.au where I have put even more of my effort.
    ___________________________________________________

 2. What does the Internet have to do with Professional Research?

    The Internet is an inexpensive system for the delivery of information.
    It is also the medium of a dramatic shift in the way we access
    information. 1) A dramatic drop in the cost of publishing is fuelling 2)
    the liberation of information from previously closed systems, leading to
    3) an emergence of alternative funding for certain public resources and
    4) an eagerly awaited 'direct to consumer' commercial information
    industry (currently on hold until an effective digital currency
    arrives).

    As a delivery system, you may be surprised to learn I routinely access
    Dialog through the Internet, at the cost of a local call (without the
    international call charges). Further, I access the LOCIS, ERIC, MOCAT
    and AGIP databases directly from their source, free (and not through
    commercial database providers).

    On counterpoint, as an information resource the Internet is still much
    too disorganized and poorly prepared to be useful in most situations of
    professional research.

    Most often, researching the Internet is no better than browsing the
    shelf of your state library.

    What is impressive is the promise of changes to the way we seek
    information. The Internet as a system suggests radical improvements to
    the current decade-old systems which have attained their research-worthy
    status. These improvements, however, have yet to prove their worth, so
    will remain promising ventures for a time.

    In some fields, particularly research computer information, the Internet
    has already begun to usurped the traditional roles of books, manuals and
    small associations. Just when you will consult the Internet as a
    research-worthy resource depends on cost, effort, and the quality of the
    information returned. This judgment call requires more than a little
    experience.

    I sincerely hope we can suppress our enthusiasm for free information in
    favour of a more true appraisal of the value of information. That I have
    included far more Internet resources in this FAQ actually reflects my
    familiarity with Internet Research, rather than believing Internet
    resources are superior to alternative sources.
    ___________________________________________________

 3. Research : Step One : Frame the Question / Visualize the Answer

    Researchers work hard at properly framing the research query. Like the
    photographer, much of the true expertise of a researcher is found in
    visualizing what they want, before beginning to look.

    This is the first step in properly undertaking research, and the primary
    step that wanna-be researchers skip. Sit down and visualize what a
    successful search would look like in this situation. How many pages? How
    many documents? What kind of authors and what kind of quality of
    document? Go through the whole gamut of different types of research
    tools and describe it. Could a simple three line newspaper article be
    considered a successful search? Would a 20 year old dissertation be
    acceptable? Would a short conversation with an expert suffice?
    (Incidentally, this same approach works exceptionally well in Internet
    research.)

    Now that we know what we want, more or less, lets reframe our question.
    If you can phrase a question in a way that lends itself to your
    resource, you are far more likely to get the answers desired. Oddly,
    this often means you are asking for places where the information resides
    rather than asking directly for the information. "Where do I find a
    definitive list of associations?" - works much better than - "What
    association works with exceptional children?" We can find all the
    associations we want once we find the definitive list of Associations.

    Similarly, "Who would know of associations for exception children?" and
    - "Are there pamphlets of advice for parents of exceptional children?" -
    and - "What umbrella organizations/specialist libraries exist for
    exceptional children?" - each direct our attention in different
    directions. Questions are not right or wrong, just better or worse at
    illuminating certain aspects of the 'answer'. (Keep in mind a
    post-modern view of research. Everything, including notions of accuracy
    and reliability, are warped by the question and the position of both the
    researcher, the information source and the end user.)

    Most research should include ample time to refresh and reframe the
    questions.
    ___________________________________________________

 4. Research : Step Two : Select the Tools

    Professional Research rests on understanding the technology and an
    awareness of the resources. In the example above (Section 3), a
    directory of associations does exist, Directory of Australian
    Associations, found in most important Australian libraries. The
    government's Department of Education has a major interest in promoting
    exceptional students. In Western Australia, Infolink, a comunity
    information service, should have a record of major community groups for
    exceptional students. I have no direct knowledge of umbrella
    organizations or specialist libraries, though I expect both the
    education department and Infolink would. A quick search of some large
    libraries may help us find some of the pamphlets but certainly not all
    that exist.

    Knowing of specific resources is helpful. Even better, though, is
    knowledge of tools which help you find resources: meta-resources. So
    what if we did not know exceptional students come under the department
    of education... Did we know who to ask to find out which government
    department is involved? If you did not know about the directory of
    associations, who or where would you look for one? Being unfamiliar with
    meta-tools is a serious handicap - you may find yourself searching hours
    for something a professional would do on the phone while drinking
    coffee!

    This is why much of your work becoming a professional researcher
    involves learning about the resources and meta-resources for your field.
    There is a large list of some of them coming up and I am trying to
    create an even larger list at http://cn.net.au, (help appreciated) but
    each researcher will have their own pool of contacts, favoured research
    resources and meta-resources. That you are seeking more is most likely
    the reason you read this FAQ.
    __________________________________________________

 5. Research Worthy Resources:  Vectors

    Information about the Information Sphere is extremely disorganized. Html
    appears to be better suited for organizing certain topics (like country
    profile data), but this is another effort to present a map/description
    to the largely undocumented sphere. A research vector is a format of
    information, and is distinct from Research Venues, section 6. Each
    vector has certain qualities to them and usually distinct entry points
    too. This section includes: books, articles, primary experience,
    websites, newsprint, statistics, patents, theses, and further research
    sources

 __ 5.1 books

    Books are dense, factual and comprehensive. They also describe
    assimilated research and opinion, a minimum 6 months to a year old by
    definition - usually much older.

  #  Most free on-line books are indexed at Books Online, Carnegie Mellon
    University.
        http://www.cs.cmu.edu/booksubjects.html
     Other books exist on the Internet, but will be hard to find unless you
    have a lead.
  #  I know of Government Publication Databases for these countries:
        Australian Government Index of Publications (1992+)
                 http://www.agps.gov.au/products/agip.htm
        Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications(MOCAT-1994+)
               http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html
  #  The (US) Library of Congress (LOCIS) is available in two formats:  The
    Official site is http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/, but don't go there, the
    Library of Congress Experimental Search System is less busy and more
    effective.
                   http://lcweb2.loc.gov/resdev/ess/
  #  Other free large book databases include:
        Australian National Library Card Catalogue
                    telnet://ilms.nla.gov.au
        and perhaps large online bookstores like Amazon.Com  
    http://www.amazon.com
  #  The definitive source for books is a collection of national book
    databases: Australian Books in Print, US Books in Print, UK Books in
    Print and I think South African Books in Print. Collectively these are
    found as World Books in Print. Thankfully, your local bookstore is
    likely to have subscriptions to one of these. Again, other books exist
    in the world, but will be hard to find unless you have a lead.
  #  Emerging resources include Commercial Book Stores, Author Fan Clubs,
    Book Discussion Lists and Online Book Review Archives. Many forums also
    include occasional book reviews, or offer a venue to ask advice on
    interesting books.
  #  Locating Book Reviews, thanks to Monash University Library
    (Australia).
               http://www.lib.monash.edu.au/hss/guides/fsreview.htm  

 __ 5.2 articles

    Articles have a statement of quality, currency and editorial vetting.
    Sometimes articles are long, unique and informative. Sometimes articles
    are short, simple, trite. There are a range of ways to access articles -
    though none particularly inexpensive. Further, there is copyright to
    consider - most researchers are restricted to using certain expensive
    systems when undertaking paid assistance.

  #  Online Databases of Full Text Articles
  #  Full Text Articles on CD-Rom
  #  Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes)
  #  Online and Printed Bibliography Databases
  #  CARL
  #  Articles directly out of Journals
  #  Direct Purchase from publishers

  #  Online Databases of Full Text Articles
    This really is the new wave of database access. Buying them online also
    simplifies the purchase of copyright. There are many commercial
    databases of full text articles available. Access requires an account
    with a commercial database marketter (Dialog, BRS, AOL) and a
    familiarity with the system used to access this information. Each
    commercial marketter will have their own directory of databases and
    books about how to search (though Sections 6.2, 9 & 12 of this FAQ may
    assist you). We now have a collective search engine of commercial
    database descriptions, found on http://cn.net.au/tools/

  #  Full Text Articles on CD-Rom
    An alternative to Online is information prepared on CD-Rom. These are
    only occassionally the type of services which individuals would consider
    buying, but all major research libraries, and increasingly major public
    libraries, are purchasing these services for their patrons.

    A recent full text article CD-Rom station has a brilliant future. Up to
    500 journals are updated frequently in this inexpensive format. And most
    Research Libraries have this station. I know Edith Cowan University
    jumped ahead by buying one for each of their four campuses (each cost
    A$10,000+).

    A side note on these sources: research libraries are often filled with
    research students. Odd coincidence really, but this means the best
    resources (read full text article CD-Rom stations) are inevitably booked
    out. There are also frequent computer difficulties - as the equipment is
    not often state of the art.

  #  The Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes) is the
    definitive source of information on databases (though cracks are
    appearing). Most important libraries have a copy, though not often on
    the open shelves.

  #  Online and Printed Bibliography Databases
    Yes, there are far more of these. These databases are just like the full
    text databases - just they only provide you with the bibliographic
    details. The alternative is a variety of printed directories. APAIS,
    PAIS, ERIC, all started life as a print directory of publications, and
    most still live on in this format.

  #  CARL
    Carl, one of the great library groups in North America established a
    service to provide articles by post or fax. They dutifully provide an
    Internet access point, and they are working at colluding with major
    libraries, but I am still unfamiliar with this service.

  #  Articles directly out of Journals
    Of course, this is the main stay of article research. Find a library
    nearby which holds the journal then read or photocopy it then and there.
    Of course, this only works well if you have a useful bibliography to
    work from. An alternative is to consider an Inter-Library Request for an
    article. These services are not offered by all libraries, and while
    inexpensive, will take a month over to arrive. In Western Australia, the
    State Library offers a service to search the holdings of most Australian
    Libraries, which greatly simplifies this task.

  #  Direct Purchase from publishers
    There are always the opportunity to source back issues of periodicals
    direct from the publisher. Copyright payments can also be determined
    this way. Trouble is both are so extremely expensive and time consuming.
    Thankfully, the Copyright Councils are working on a solution based on
    pre-negotiated rates with themselves as the payment source. Let me
    rediscover more about this and report back.

 __ 5.3 primary experience

    Experts can offer firsthand knowledgable experience in a personal and
    factual manner. They can also be a pain in the butt. There is a whole
    sphere of study in how to interview an expert, championed by the
    newspaper reporter (who often does little else), but the basics are not
    hard to understand.
    
    1) Locate someone who is deeply involved in an issue
    2) Try to interest them in discussing their views
    3) Ask a few pertinent questions, but mostly just summarize their words
    and look interested.
    
    Finding experts is not hard too.
  #  Relevant Associations
  #  Government departments
  #  Accademic staff
  #  Book authors or impressive article authors

    In each case, you merely need to interest them in coffee and get a
    highly informed description of their experience. Be aware that all
    experts are potentially biased, but most often invaluable. 
    
    Experts are also brilliant sources for finding additional sources of
    information: try to take out your research to date and quickly describe
    where you have been. The expert is unlikely to learn of a new source
    (though they hope to), but will certainly end up recommending some
    source you had not considered.

 __ 5.4 websites

    Websites are often of unknown age, of only guessed at quality and
    potentially the easiest information to retrieve. There are many points
    of entry into this field, but only a few are quick enough to be useful
    in serious research (as distinct from recreational surfing).

    Finding the WebSite
    Please do not think a simple scan of several Internet search engines
    will suffice to search anything on the Internet. There is a much clearer
    description of this in the research studies section (Section 12). If you
    find something useful in this way, count yourself lucky.

    A better approach is to move through the various systems and structures
    on the Internet till you find the one most rewarding. Information clumps
    together. Information does not exist in isolation but instead is
    developed in context, is reinforced, and develops progressively. This is
    why a ftp archive may be the best place to start for Perl programming,
    The Copyright FAQ for Copyright issues, a directory is the best place to
    start for women's studies and the (government) HUD user website for
    Housing research. Sometimes it takes a very long time to locate the
    specific area, but it is usually recognizable once you locate the
    primary sources.

  #  Internet Search Engines
  #  Internet Forums
  #  FAQs and Newsgroups
  #  Internet Directories

  #  Australian Entry Points (national, state & government)
      http://cn.net.au/vectors/websites.html

    There are also new structures emerging
  #  webrings,
  #  topic-specific search engines

 __ 5.5 newsprint

    Newsprint is accessible through electronic databases. In addition, most
    State libraries have a substantial catalogue of past newspapers.
    Newsprint tends to be superficial and reasonably biassed, but current
    newspapers are very current.

  #  Media Monitoring
    There are firms which specialize in scanning a whole host of newspapers
    for reference to certain names, topics or businesses. Any new article of
    interest is copied and posted/faxed to your attention.
  #  Newspaper Archives
    Newspapers are kept in libraries. Each major newspaper also maintains a
    private library of their past documents.
  #  Copyright Permission
    Most newspapers are party to the Copyright Convention, which allows you
    to easily purchase additional copies, most often for less than 10 cents
    per page.

 __ 5.6 statistics

    Statistics allow us to lie with confidence. They are dense, factual and
    often more reliable than personal experience. Of course in research, we
    are talking about four separate categories of statistics: national
    statistical organizations, Association Statistics, Government Agency
    Statistics and Commercial Statistics.

    After much consideration, I think this will be real hard to express in
    an FAQ, so I have a list & database of these at
    http://cn.net.au/vectors/stats.html and http://cn.net.au

    I'll try to include lists of statistics here and keep specific
    statistics for an area I can arrange better.
    
  #  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
      http://www.abs.gov.au/
  #  1997 Catalogue of Publications and Products & Subject Guide 
     Australian Bureau of Statistics
      http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3110121.NSF/  ->
             -> d29f0d90066771024a25644f001d0c5b?OpenView
  #  US Census Bureau
      http://www.census.gov/
    

    Country Profiles
    We recently completed an article listing 15+ country resources, and have
    linked this to a map - so if you are interested in this type of
    information, do visit the website. This list includes references to: 1)
    World Bank's Competitive Indicators, 2) Pan American Health
    Organization's Country Health Profiles, 3) (UK) Foreign Counsular
    Office's Travel Advice, 4) US Department of State's Background Notes,
    Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (1996), Country Reports on
    Economic Policy and Trade Practices (1996) & (1995), 5) US Library of
    Congress's Country Studies, 6) US Department of State's Travel Warnings,
    7) The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s Country Factbook, and
    Chiefs of State file, 8) Canadian Forces College, Department of National
    Defence's War Peace and Security Guide, 9) United Nations General
    Assembly's Agenda 21 Report, 10) Shoreland's Travel Health Online's
    Country Summary Profiles, 11) The Amnesty International Report 1997, 12)
    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees's Country Comments, and
    13) The (Canadian) Deparment of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
    (DFAIT)'s Travel Information & Advisory Reports. There is also a link to
    the PACIFIC exchange rate website.

    Commercial Country Profile information also abounds. As this does not
    translate well to flat text, so visit
    http://cn.net.au/articles/country.html for more information.


 __ 5.7 patents

    patent databases
  #  The US Patents Fulltext
  #  European Patents Fulltext
  #  INPADOC
  #  an assortment of additional databases include patent details

    Internet patent resources
  #  There is a project to bring US patents to the Internet. Last time I
    looked it was just titles, but aiming for full text.

    Further resources
  #  Australian Patent Offices
       Card catalogue system at each capital city.
  #  Patent Attorneys

 __ 5.8 theses

    Theses and dissertations are professional papers completed for higher
    degrees. They are long, dense and often very esoteric and convoluted.
    Trouble is, most theses and dissertations have no more than 12 copies
    ever - one always to the University Library, another with the author,
    and others scatter to the wind.

  #  Dissertation Abstracts Online (by UMI)
  #  Australian Theses (a list was maintained from 1966 to 1991)
  #  AEI Australian Education Index (Australian education theses abstracts)
  #  British theses (???)
  #  Dissertations and Theses of the ROC (Taiwan)
  #  THESA (France)
  #  Many larger topic-specific databases also include some theses. 
  #  See also University Library card catalogues 

 __ 5.9 further research sources

    As I mentioned earlier, I do not like most Market Research, but I have
    heard tales of using the wear on rail lines as a measure of their
    business. There are many vectors, just the above have been more
    effective. In the near future we will have e-books emerging as a new
    resource: electronic books you must pay for which may or may not lack
    editorial and quality control.

    You will most likely locate further resources by asking advice of
    experts and secondary sources.
    ___________________________________________________

 6. Research Worthy Resources:  Venues

    Despite, and perhaps because, the information about the information
    sphere is so very disorganized, a wide range of information venues have
    developed to assist users to access the range of information which
    exist. Each venue has particular features, and specializes on certain
    vectors, certain topics. This section includes libraries, research
    databases, secondary experience, government, faqs, associations,
    periodicals, Internet search engines, Internet discussion groups and
    further meta-resources.

 __ 6.1 libraries

  #  The (US) Library of Congress (LOCIS) is available in two formats:  The
    Official site is http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/, but don't go there, the
    Library of Congress Experimental Search System is less busy and more
    effective.
                   http://lcweb2.loc.gov/resdev/ess/
  #  Australian National Library Card Catalogue
                  Telnet to Search the Online Public Access Catalogue
    (OPAC)
  #  Directory of Special Libraries in Australia by ALIA, listing of 1400+
    special libraries in Australia.
  #  Australian Libraries
      http://cn.net.au/venues/library.html
  #  US Libraries - thanks to Library of Congress.
       http://lcweb.loc.gov/z3950/gateway.html

 __ 6.2 research databases

  #  The Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes)
  #  The database directory of the Australian Database Development
    Association (ADDA)
  #  Directories for the large Commercial Database Marketters:
          Dialog, Ausinet, BRS, Westlaw, Mead, ...
  #  The Commercial Database List, a distributed database of commercial
    database descriptions.
          http://cn.net.au/tools/

    Free Databases also available through commercial sources
  #  ERIC - Education Resources
       http://www.aspensys.com/eric/
  #  Australian Government Index of Publications (AGIP 1992+)
                 http://www.agps.gov.au/products/agip.htm
  #  Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications(MOCAT 1994+)
               http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html
  #  The (US) Library of Congress (LOCIS) is available in two formats:  The
    Official site is http://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog/, but don't go there, the
    Library of Congress Experimental Search System is less busy and more
    effective.
                   http://lcweb2.loc.gov/resdev/ess/
  #  US database of Corporate Information (EDGAR) thanks to US Securities
    and Exchange Commission
        http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar

 __ 6.3 secondary experience

    Sometimes you must go to people who have only experience with the people
    in the field, rather than people with first-hand experience. I am
    thinking of reporters, business experts and advisors. This is fine if
    you intend to follow some of the leads suggested, but somehow
    unprofessional if used as a resource itself.
  #  Associations Experts
  #  Accademic Experts
  #  Journalists
  #  Government Advisors

 __ 6.4 government

  #  Government Publication Databases exist for these countries:
        Australian Government Index of Publications (1992+)
                 http://www.agps.gov.au/products/agip.htm
        Monthly Catalog of US Government Publications(MOCAT-1994+)
               http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/adpos400.html
  #  Australian Government Entry Points, Federal and State Entry Points and
    Agency Lists,
        http://cn.net.au/venues/gov.html
  #  Fedworld - US Government Entry Points
       http://www.fedworld.gov/
  #  Yahoo has an extensive listing of government & agency entry points
       http://www.yahoo.com
  #  GovBot - thanks to the US Business Advisor
       http://www.busines.gov/Search_Online.html
  #  Another GovBot was unfortunately not working, but I like the idea so
    much that here is the address anyway.
      http://www.nwbuildnet.com/nwbn/govbot.html


    I will be working more on this area shortly. Look first to the Community
    Networking site: cn.net.au

    United Nations
  #  United Nations Website  http://www.un.org/
  #  The Yearbook of the United Nations (annual) summarizes all the UN's
    activities that year.
  #  United Nations Chronicle (quarterly of 80+pages) covers current
    activities by the UN
  #  The Latest Breaking News is published to their Web Site 
       http://www.un.org/News/
  #  UN Blue Book Series is a new set of very detailed summaries on topical
    issues: Somolia, apartheid, nuclear-non-proliferation...
  #  In Australia, each State Library holds an archive of United Nations
    Documents. I believe this is common abroad.
  #  For more detail, search UNDOC - Current Index - subject guide, the
    quarterly tomb which provides a non-cumulative index to UN
    publications. The print version was discontinued after Sept 1996, in
    favour of the microfiche version.
  #  I have further information at http://cn.net.au/venues/gov.html

 __ 6.5 faqs 

  #  FAQs and Newsgroup database (Community Networking)
       http://cn.net.au/venues/faqs.html
  #  Another Newsgroup database Thanks to Liszt.
       http://www.liszt.com/news/
  #  List of Periodic Informational Postings, thanks to the *.answers
    moderators
       http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/  ->
               ->  faq/usenet/periodic-postings/
       http://www.ii.com/internet/faqs/writing/
       news://news.answers
  #  In Australia, FAQs rest at Telstra's Plaza.Aarnet site
       ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/
  #  A [partial] list of FAQ archives exist in news-answers/introduction
      ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/  ->
                ->  news-answers/introduction
    I would love to know a definitive listing of FAQ archives.


    Related Information
  #  The Argus Clearing-house - Clearing-house of Subject-oriented
    Directories.
      http://www.clearinghouse.net/
  #  Searching Current Network News with Dejanews or Altavista
       http://www.dejanews.com/
       http://www.altavista.digital.com

 __ 6.6 associations

    Associations often interpret their purpose as a place to pool and
    distribute information. Larger associations often maintain a specialized
    library, collect statistics, publish and have experts on their staff.

  #  Directory of Australian Associations - the definitive source for
    addressing and contact numbers.
  #  US Directory of Association
  #  The ASCOT database also includes details on the management of
    Australian associations.
  #  a Directory of Non-profit Organizations on the Internet exists, I
    believe.

 __ 6.7 periodicals

    Magazines and Journals provide a valuable service in quality control and
    editorial input. There are three difficulties though. Rarely do we want
    to sit down with all past issues and browse, so we start with "What
    article?" Secondly, many articles you locate may be impractical to
    access. Lastly, we have Copyright Permission.
    
  #  Electronic Zines, archived on the Internet, can be found from John
    Labovitz's E-Zine-List arranged under 80 different subjects.
      http://www.meer.net/~johnl/e-zine-list/
    
    Lists of Periodicals
  #  Subject Access to Australian Journals -  by National Library of
    Australia (still limited)
    http://www.nla.gov.au/oz/ausejour.html
  #  Ulrich's International Directory of Periodicals

    Locating Periodicals
  #  Online Card Catalogues to Major Libraries  (see libraries - section
    6.1)
  #  Full text from electronic sources.
  #  Specialist libraries 

 __ 6.8 Internet search engines

    In the grand challenge to create the most efficient and effective way to
    organize Internet resources, the search engines are slowly falling far
    behind. There was a time, early in 1996, when these resources were
    brilliant. But business pages began to float to the top, the blunt
    search technologies fail to keep pace with the volume of information and
    the dross of the Internet is slowly filling up these beautiful
    creations.

  #  AltaVista     http://altavista.digital.com
  #  WebCrawler     http://webcrawler.com
  #  Lycos     http://www.lycos.com
  #  HotBot   http://www.hotbot.com/
  #  Excite    http://www.excite.com/
  #  MetaCrawler     http://www.metacrawler.com

    Australian Web Resources
  #  Aussie.com.au	(also allows search for names only) 
          http://aussie.com.au
  #  More Australian Search Engines  (Thanks to Vicnet)
          http://www.vicnet.net.au/vicnet/searchall.htm#australia
  #  Australian State Search Engines (Community Networking) 
       http://cn.net.au/vectors/ise.html

    Related Resources:
  #  Yahoo     http://www.yahoo.com
  #  The Argus Clearing-house, A collection of guides to the Internet.
       http://www.clearinghouse.net/

 __ 6.9 Internet discussion groups

    There are three important research applications for mailing lists:
    search through past discussion, directly ask members for assistance, and
    become a participative member to pick up information. The best forums
    are private. The list manager decides if you are allowed in and more
    control and effort is expended in developing interesting content and
    discussion. If you a closed and private forum, persevere.

  #  Liszt - The definitive but incomplete record of Internet lists
    including a subject index.
      http://www.liszt.com/
  #  Ozlists - A definitive but incomplete listing of Australian lists in a
    subject index
       http://www.gu.edu.au/gint/ozlists/ozlists_home.html
  #  Inter-Links
      http://www.nova.edu/Inter-Links/cgi-bin/lists
  #  The Argus Clearing-house, a collection of guides to the Internet.
      http://www.clearinghouse.net/
  #  The Tile.Net/Lists has both a searchable and a directory style index
      http://www.tile.net/tile/listserv/

 Interrogating List Software
    There are many different mailing list software including listserv,
    majordomo, listproc, mailbase, and more. Each program has its own
    interrogation commands. Almost all automatically archive messages and a
    few even allow for remote searching of message archives.

    Mailing List instructions
  #  Community Networking 
       http://cn.net.au/venues/forums.html 
  #  more detail at Saint Louis University Law Library, thanks to James
    Milles.
       http://lawlib.slu.edu/training/mailser.htm

    Particularly Mailing Lists:
  #  Business Librarians List  Buslib-l
  #  Government Documents List  Govdoc
  #  Australian Government Documents List
  #  Journet-l (prominent Journalist list from Canada) 

    List Support Details
  #  Proper Newsgroup Etiquette
      ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.announce.newusers/
  #  Information on how to build successful mailing lists
    	http://cn.net.au/cn/index.html

 __ 6.10 further meta-resources

  #  Standard Directories from telephone directories to staff and
    government directories
  #  Specialist Directories from Lloyds Shipping Register, Radio Airtime
    Sales and an (Australian) National Directory of Multicultural Research
  #  The Directory of Australian Directories
  #  Internet Chat-groups
    ___________________________________________________

 7. Specialty Research Resources

    I am a little disadvantaged here, but I have listed either some of the
    specific tools I know of, or meta-resources which may help you find
    further information on field-specific research resources.

 __ 7.1 legal research

  #  FAQ : Law-Related_Resources_on_the_Internet_and_Elsewhere
      ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/
  #  The Legal Research FAQ 
      ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/
  #  Copyright_Myths_FAQ
      ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/copyright/
  #  Copyright FAQ
      ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/usenet/FAQs/news.answers/law/copyright/faq/

 __ 7.2 computer field research

    Unlike most every other field, a primary resource for quality
    information about computers is the Internet.

  #  Archie - a database of ftp addresses to files found in ftp archives.
       http://archie.au/archie-adv.html - New Advanced Query
       http://archie.au/archie.html - New Simple Query
       email to archie@plaza.aarnet.edu.au
  #  ShareWare.com
       http://shareware.com
  #  Association of Shareware Professionals 
       http://www.asp-shareware.org/
  #  Directory of Shareware by the Association of Shareware Professionals 
       ftp://ftp.tas.gov.au/pc/simtelnet/msdos/info
       Look for the directory:   asp804.zip   500Kb+ in size
  #  RFC and FYI Archive
       ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/rfc/
       but see the index first 
       ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/rfc/fyi-index.txt   and 
       ftp://plaza.aarnet.edu.au/rfc/rfc-index.txt

 __ 7.3 researching research

    If you are seeking evidence of existing research, you may also wish to
    consider these resources. Please help if you know more.

    Australian Research
  #  CSIRO Research Programs and Projects
       http://www.csiro.au/csiro/csirores.htm
  #  Directory of Western Australia Research and Development
       http://www.wa.gov.au/commerce/research.html
  #  Australian Rural Research in Progress
       Commercial Database by CSIRO, Australia
  #  CSIRO Index
       Citations to publications from CSIRO-sponsored projects
  #  Australian Education Index
       ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research)
  #  Australian Energy Research in Progress database
  #  University Research Directories

    International resources
  #  CORDIS - Database of European Research Developments by the EC
      http://www.cordis.lu/
  #  SPIN - Database of Research Funding Resources
      http://spin.web.unsw.edu.au/
  #  US Federally-Funded Research
      http://medoc.gdb.org/best/fed-fund.html
  #  CRIS - Current Research Information System  (US, Canada and Czech)
      http://cristel.nal.usda.gov:8080/
  #  ERIC - Educational Resources
       http://www.aspensys.com/eric/
  #  The Research Centers and Services Directory
  #  National Databases of Research also exist for Japan (JICST) and
    Germany.
  #  See also Gale Directory of Databases (Section 6.2) 
  #  See Theses and Dissertations (Section 5.8)
  #  See patents (Section 5.7)

 __ 7.4 researching as a student

    Perhaps the students among us will be grateful for these resources.

  #  Computerized Thesis Writing Guides 
      http://www.yahoo.com/business_and_economy/  -> 
         ->  Companies/Computers/Software/Writing/
  #  Referencing Guide - thanks to Edith Cowan University (Australia)
      http://www.cowan.edu.au/ecuwis/docs/admin/refguide/refguide.html
  #  Summary Notes of Writing for Social Scientists
      [How to Start and Finish your Thesis, Book, or Article.]
      http://www.pitt.edu/~malhotra/writing.htm
    ___________________________________________________

 8. More on the Internet as a research resource

    Lets agree the Internet is a great resource for surfing, but less
    valuable when you have a certain question to answer. To find answers, we
    need to begin by understanding how the information is arranged on the
    Internet. Contrary to myth, information is not disorganized but rather
    organized very carefully along clear patterns. Each pattern is differs
    between the various forms of information. Further, awareness of
    information moves through several systems. Your understanding of the
    strengths and weaknesses of each pattern, each format, each system, will
    guide your search for information. I will share two insights here then
    invite you to the website for more.

    Insight One: Information tends to clump on the Internet, as with most
    resources, either by design or by simple habit. The web is not the only
    source of information and often not the resource where the best
    information groups. If you routinely browse different Internet systems,
    you will find certain information is found primarily in certain systems.
    While much information is drifting to the web, this trend is far from
    complete. The dominant source of information can usually be explained
    historically, as websites, ftp-archives, online databases, software,
    telnet-databases, newsgroups, mailing lists, etc...

    Insight Two: Information moves from the producers of information to the
    people who are seeking such information, and the way the information
    moves defines the resource. This is far more general, and applicable to
    any information source. Let us use books as an example.

    Books are created by authors who have something to write. Books are
    printed and marketed by Publishers to the bookstores who then provide it
    on to the readers. Each facet of this process defines the resource.
    Books have quality, editorial vetting, sales value and a potentially
    lengthy preparation time.

    Now lets look at FAQs. The best resource in the world on copyright law
    is the musings of a group of copyright lawyers who form the copyright
    mailing list. The copyright FAQ supported by this group is a logical
    document which summarizes much of the discussion of this mailing list.
    FAQs are vetted by the news.answers team, automatically mirrored around
    the world, and read by millions. From its origins, the FAQ is a
    peer-reviewed document, often full of links to further resources,
    topical, knowledgeable, factual and few in number.

    Again, the way the information is generated, organized and transmitted
    deeply affects the information. Your understanding of the relative
    qualities of information affects both the search process and your
    analysis of its value. This framework is very valuable when interacting
    with the Internet and cuts through much of the chaos which is the
    Internet. As I mentioned, please visit http://cn.net.au for further
    insights of this kind.
    ___________________________________________________

 9. More on the Commercial Information Sphere

    The commercial information sphere existed in the 1970's and earlier. It
    is far more developed, far better organized, far better funded, almost
    always far more valuable and expensive than most every other research
    resource.

    Commercial information is arranged reasonably uniformly in large
    databases of full-text or bibliographic information. Some databases are
    small, single source documents, while others are huge unfoccussed
    collections of resources.

    Most directories and journals can be made into a database, but
    single-source databases do not enjoy much financial success, (except in
    a local market as in newspapers). To overcome this difficulty, single
    sources are grouped together into larger collections of databases on a
    particular topic. These larger database groups become the primary tool
    for commercial research.

    Developing these databases requires the assistance and expertise of a
    range of skills. Sometimes this requires abstracting, interpreting, and
    as with some Lexis-Nexis databases, expert legal interpretation. Often
    this is accomplished by large database developers with a range of
    databases in their portfolio.

    The marketting and consumer billing of such databases is then provided
    by a relatively small collection of very large database marketers. As an
    indication of the size of this market, Knight-Ridder is rumoured to be
    selling their Dialog & Datastar for a figure approaching half a billion
    dollars!

    Thus, we have an industry consisting of a wide collection of players,
    each improving and developing the information from individual
    periodicals, journals, news items, etc... All very confusing for the end
    user, of course.

    This is elegantly illustrated by the database descriptions for
    Lexis-Nexis databases (They prefer the term libraries. See
    http://www.lexis-nexis.com/lncc/sources/libcont/aust.html as an
    example).

    Luckily, there are actually very few large databases in existence.
    Sadly, many single sources exist in different commercial databases. The
    combinations are not endless, but they most certainly are difficult to
    understand. Further, different databases sometimes include different
    information from the same single-source. One database may include just
    abstracts, another may have fulltext, chemical indexing and more.

    Most researchers are unfamiliar with what exactly is being searched.

    This gives rise to great customer loyalty to database marketters,
    brought on by ignorance and obsfucation. I am even hard pressed to
    compare prices between access points. Community Networking's first stab
    at improving this is at http://cn.net.au

    This system has distributed information for several decades. It is both
    sophisticated and quite difficult. You will need to become experienced
    with inverted indexes, search techniques (Boolean, truncation,
    proximity, field limits ...), and properly phrasing the question in a
    way which will be answered by a database search.

    Unfortunately, if you are incompletely skilled at research, you will
    take longer, pay more and locate far more information or unwisely
    discard more than necessary.

    These are very different from searching Altavista and Webcrawler.

    Doing your own research offers an opportunity to more closely influence
    the research process. Sometimes only you understand the topic and
    sometimes you can more quickly discard unimportant details. Certainly it
    is becoming simpler to undertake some of this work.

    Many of the commercial databases are also available in a CD format.
    There are substantial subscription costs which limit their availability
    to large research institutions and libraries, though individual
    databases can be found in bookstores (I believe world books in print
    costs AU$5000+). Provided you can find casual access, it will cost you
    far less. Keep an eye on the age, though. Sometimes online information
    is more recent.
 
    The decision between undertaking research on your own or seeking
    external help is really a decision based on your research expertise,
    your budget, your access to information, your time, and the importance
    of finding all the information available. It also depends on your access
    to some decent research assistance. That is your decision.

    What I do know, is that a newcomer to the commercial information sphere
    will seriously underestimate the difficulty involved in searching, and
    underestimate both the cost of research and the cost of research
    assistance. Keep in mind this same system serves the needs of large
    commercial conglomerates, professional legal research, and well financed
    government studies. The commercial information sphere contains far more
    valuable information than the you need. Often the Internet is just an
    interesting sneeze in comparison.

  #  Article: The Gale Directory of Databases (bi-annual in two volumes)
    includes a factual article as a forward, which follows the development
    of this industry.
  #  Full text databases  - by Carol Tenopir and Jung Soon Ro
      Soon at http://cn.net.au/training/tenopir.html
    ___________________________________________________

 10. More on the Information Service Industry

    Private Detectives, Professional Database Researchers, Library
    Researchers, Legal Researchers, Commercial Database Producers,
    Commercial Database Marketers, Magazines, News Organizations, Libraries,
    this is a big industry. Professional Research is just a process which
    links together those seeking information with those who provide it.

 __ 10.1 judging information value

    Information has value. It also has other qualities which will assist you
    to judge the value of information you may consider buying.

    Accuracy: the factual nature of the information presented. If the
    statistics purport to show a particular trend - how large is the margin
    of error? How large is the sample size? How likely are there to have
    been factual errors in their development? The measurement of statistical
    error is now a refined science in some fields. A statistical result can
    be inaccurate when the sample size is too small, if the margin of error
    is too large, the sample collection procedure incorrect, or a number of
    other situations.

    Reliability: the support for trusting the solutions, both from
    additional resources and from being able to duplicate the conclusions.
    This includes the reputation of the researchers. No matter how
    inaccurate and biased you may believe certain facts to be, successful
    independent support of a suggested fact does improve its value. If facts
    can not be duplicated, like cold fussion, they are of less value.

    Bias: conscious or subconscious influences which affect information.
    Bias can occur in collection, preparation and presentation of
    information. Most information you find will be tainted. Secondary
    information is deeply affected. Statistics are not necessarily less
    biased.

    We counter bias in several ways. Firstly, we try to be aware of bias.
    Where is bias likely? Which direction would the bias affect the
    information. Secondly, we try to collect information which has different
    bias. This is why research based solely on government research, no
    matter how accurate and reliable, is less valueable. Often information
    from different countries can counter bias. Thirdly, we need to accept
    bias is likely to exist. This is why primary sources are often more
    valuable than secondary sources. This is why tertiary sources, like
    experts, are very likely to be biased.

    Age: The date information was created or compiled will feature
    prominently in the value of information. Dates given sometimes mean the
    date information was created, or the date information was compiled. How
    old is a book compiled in 1995, which took the author 10 years to
    finish? I find statistics often forecast information, prominently
    displaying recent compilation dates but still often use old census data
    or the like. Worse still, information on the Internet typically has no
    date.

    Purpose: purpose merits further discussion. When you are uncertain about
    potential bias, you can look for reasons to distrust the information
    instead. Suspicion is not equivalent to bias, but it can be thought
    provoking. Privately, I have heard repeated rumours that important
    national statistics have been fudged in different countries. A
    government research report investigating the price of books in Australia
    would have a political purpose, a purpose which provides the climate for
    some potentially significant bias. A tell-all book by industry experts
    often include a tremendous quality of insider experience difficult to
    find elsewhere. While there may be a purpose of self-agrandizement, the
    purpose is less a climate for significant bias. Medical research has
    perhaps the greatest climate for significant bias, and this suggests the
    greatest standard of proof and external, reliable support.

    This explanation of accuracy, reliability, bias, age and purpose is very
    important in research. This is what leads us to an appraisal of value.
    For years, the tobacco industry funded 'independent' research finding
    smoking minimally harmful to health. It is now likely there may have
    been errors brought on by accuracy, and bias. Certain purpose was in
    doubt. As other studies showed smoking in harmful, we can also say this
    research lacked certain facets of reliability. Research about the future
    of the Internet is perpetually suspect because it also ages so very
    quickly.

    Once you are aclimatized to these elements, you begin to see potential
    for error in a whole range of information. Real-Estate association
    figures, expert opinions, Toothpaste advertisements and National GDP
    figures all occassionally display some degree of warping and
    manipulation, clouding the truth. The solution is awareness, comparison
    and careful analysis. As a personal aside, this is part of the reason
    for my personal dislike for market research: it is often taken far more
    seriously than warranted and mean far less than is suggested.

 __ 10.2 buying information assistance

    If you decide external help is advisable, what next? Sadly, this is not
    an easy question to answer. I will attempt this in a later version of
    this FAQ
    ___________________________________________________

 11. Emerging Trends in the information sphere

    I will outline three emerging trends whose impact is not fully
    understood. Firstly, for the past few years, individual database
    owners/maintainers have been flirting with the idea of making paid
    access available through the Internet, rather than the existing system
    of allowing database marketing firms to promote and market their
    databases. This is not commercially viable yet... but some have emerged
    with alternative funding despite this (Library of Congress, ERIC, see
    section 6.2). Others are creeping in around the edges by offering
    subscribers access at a much reduced flat annual fee (Computer Select at
    one time). I expect to see much more of this once a meaningful way to
    charge by the page emerges - which despite the hype appears to be some
    time away.

    A second trend is Internet publishing itself. Gradually, the information
    is getting easier to locate (don't laugh please - its undignified). We
    are also getting better at using the Internet as a tool to disseminate
    information. Emerging from these efforts are the very visible, if
    perhaps short-lived, search engines, but also other efforts like
    archives of FAQs, archives of guidebooks, applying the dewey decimal
    system to the Internet, specialist directories, specialist search
    engines and more ensure this will be a lively field for several years to
    come. As it gets easier to locate the good information, perhaps the
    lines between commercial quality and Internet quality will begin to
    merge. I have seen some promising plans for raising the quality of
    Internet information.

    Thirdly, there is this very interesting prospect of paying for
    information by the page through the Internet - and viewing the results
    in a web page immediately. There are many technical hurdles yet, but
    certain elements are already appearing, including ventures like
    DialogWeb, but much more is in the future. This step may prove
    profitable for ATM vendors and owners of Internet cafes, pubs and
    kiosks. It may also herald a dramatic drop in the cost of information.
    ___________________________________________________

 12. Education and Training in Professional Research

    Practice, Guidance and Facts are required to become better at research.
    None of these is particularly hard to get, just the time and effort to
    get better, for just like an artist, professional research is a lifetime
    study made more complicated by a moving  target.

 __ 12.1 Facts

    Facts on professional research are relatively easy to find. Making some
    coherent sense of them takes practice. You will want to learn of each

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA


[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer:
david@cn.net.au (David Novak)





Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM