Find It Online: A Searcher’s Baedeker

The third edition of Alan Schlein’s “Find It Online” is both a guided tour of the web’s most interesting and exotic information resources, and a hands-on tutorial for becoming a searching expert.

Find It Online: The Complete Guide to Online Research is packed with useful information, including a lot that was new to me, despite my familiarity with the web. Schlein’s tone is conversational, but authoritative, reflecting his background as an award-winning journalist.

The first part of the book is devoted to searching tools and techniques. Search engines, specialized tools, and fee-based services are all covered. Exceptional content repositories are also discussed, with annotated links to some of the best resources on the Web.

Entire chapters are devoted to government sources online, public records, news resources, and business tools. Another chapter illustrates how to use these sources with example searches.

Also helpful are chapters on managing and filtering information, evaluating accuracy, credibility, and authority of online sources, and a thoughtful look at online privacy, and the steps you can take to protect your own personal information. Throughout the book, sidebars written by contributing experts offer further insight into a wide range of topics.

Much of the book is focused on a topic often overlooked by other searching tutorials: preparing for your search. If you really need to go deep into a subject, you need to create your own detailed plan of attack before you begin. Otherwise you may waste countless hours searching in all the wrong places and running into dead-ends.

I particularly liked the “hot tips” that are scattered throughout the book. These are small bits of wisdom Schlein has picked up from years of experience searching and teaching. Some tips are technical pointers, others are cautionary notes for avoiding trouble with tough searching problems.

The third edition of the book expands and updates the previous editions, and adds a more global reach in coverage. If you’ve got an earlier edition, the third edition is a worthwhile upgrade for both the new information and updated links.

Find It Online is useful reference guide for novice and experienced searchers alike. At $19.95 for more than 500 pages of expert advice, combined with thousands of recommended links, the book is also a real bargain.

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