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WebQuest Guide

What is a WebQuest?

A WebQuest is an inquiry based project using the world wide web, primarily, but traditional sources like books and periodicals are not excluded.

Web Research Tools:

Search Engines: A search engine performs a quest based on terms the researcher provides. The search engine queries tables of web page content to find the addresses of websites that will serve information about your search terms. Examples of search engines are Google, Ask, Bing, AltaVista

Open Directories: Human maintained content directories can be searched . DMOZ, World Wide Web Virtual Library and Yahoo! Directory are examples.

Newsgroups and listservs are additional tools.

Search Methods:

Web research is searching a collection of words/phrases collected from Web pages. Software programs (called spiders, webcrawlers) automatically gather the content in millions of web pages. The content (words,links,numbers) are stored in database tables that search engines scan for your search terms. When you enter search words, punctuation counts for a lot. Quotation marks are a good example.When you need search results having the exact phrase that you enter in the Google search box, use quotes. For example, if you type in "rock and roll band" in the search box, each of the webpages that Google sends back in the list should all have the exact phrase rock and roll band in it. If you type in rock and roll band without quotes, you will get mixed results. Some pages will have rock and roll but the words will be in different places on the webpage. Some of the seach result pages might have roll and band in them but not rock. It is more random.

A search that is created with toy -boat typed in the search box will provide a list of pages that have information about toys but not toy boats.  If you were interested in specific kinds of remote control toys, you could type this in the search box:

toy "remote control " plane OR boat OR car

This search would retreive web pages that had toy in them and the exact phrase remote control. And, the webpages would also have either plane or boat or car as well. Someone would do this kind of search if they were interested in remote control toys that are planes, cars, or boats but not really interested in remote control robots or televisions. 

One final but very important strategy. You want your reserch to be factual and accurate. One critical thing to remember is that not all websites are designed for researchers. Websites that end with .com, like www.discovery.com/  are less likely to be factual and truthful as websites that end with .edu or .org, like www.blueplanetbiomes.org/pancake_prickly_pear_cactus.htm
or  www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/cactusFAQs.html. While you can get good information from a .com site, it is less likely because a .com site is designed to be commercial or entertaining.

If you type the following into a search box:
cactus -desert site:.edu

you would be "telling" Google or Yahoo or Alta Vista that you were interested in facts about cacti that were not desert cacti, and that you were only interested in gathering facts from .edu sites, which are usually schools or research labs.

Advanced search terms do not have to be typed in like the examples above. You can use a form to help you construct a search. Near the search box, if you click the Advanced Search link, it will bring up a form you can fill out that does the same thing as typing in the exact punctuation.