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Computing and Information Services


A Sample Research Session


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Using the web for research





How might a typical web research session go? Let's walk through an example:

On Feb. 10, 1999 I tried researching the topic of ecofeminism. I wanted to find some articles on the topic, the names of key researchers in the discipline, whether or not there is a related listserv, and what paper publications or books might be useful for researching this area.

Before beginning I make sure to start up a text editor like NotePad or SimpleText, or a word processor so I can easily take notes about the session and cut and paste information and URL's that I find.

I begin by searching the web.

There are a number of choices. First, I check one of the web guides. Yahoo, Magellan, and Lycos all provide links to web sites that have been categorized by subject. If the subject we are looking for falls into one of the categories determined by these sites, we are in luck. And since these sites are generally reviewed by the web guide in which they are listed, they are usually fairly robust sites. However, far too often, the subject we are searching for does not fall neatly into one of these categories. If this is the case, we can turn to the global web search sites.

A quick visit to Yahoo shows that, while it does have a category on the environment, there is no category specifically devoted to ecofeminism, so I'll try a global web search site like AltaVista instead.

A simple search on the keyword ecofeminism turns up 2,298 "hits." This is far too many to look at one by one so I could try to narrow the search by combining keywords or by building a more specific query. But first I'll take a quick look at the first dozen hits see if any might be useful.

Some of them are obviously personal pages that express an opinion on the topic, and some appear to books or videos for sale, but here are three that look promising:

1. Ecofeminism
Ecofeminism: Women's Studies and Environmental Ethics. PHIL 5710.01 - Spring 1997. Claire L. Sahlin. Wooten Hall 320, Wednesday 2:00-4:50 p.m. Department.
Last modified 11-Oct-97 - page size 20K - in English

2. Welcome to the Ecofeminism Web-Ring
Welcome to the Ecofeminism Web-Ring. Trying to locate the resources you want on the internet is often frustrating so with this in mind I thought it would..
Last modified 28-Aug-98 - page size 6K - in English

3. What Is Ecofeminism Anyway?
For a spiritual politic and a political spirituality. What Is Ecofeminism Anyway. What's New. Exploration of Issues. Ecofeminist Writings. Links to Allies.
Last modified 15-Dec-97 - page size 31K - in English

The first appears to be information related to a course on ecofeminism. A visit to the site leads to the course home page. Course pages are great resources for topics because they usually include the book list used for the course as well as a list of related web sites. In essence, you have someone who is teaching the topic doing the web research for you! At this site I can check out the reading list, copy the list of books and authors to WordPad, and investigate those later.

The second example appears to be a web ring, that is, a series of web sites devoted to a topic, collected by somone interested in that topic. This is definitely worth investigating, as long as I remember that whoever put this ring together may have collected sites that express a certain viewpoint.

The third site looks like it might have some basic information which may be the best place to start.

Going back to the first site I copy one of the titles from the reading list and head over to Amazon, an online bookstore. There I find the book and a short synopsis, but more importantly, Amazon provides an easy way to search on this and related topics. In this case, a quick search on ecofeminism results in a booklist of 74 titles. From here I can scan the titles and authors to get an idea of who is publishing on this topic.

Selecting a handful of authors' names, I then return to AltaVista and search for these authors to see if they have web sites. I also visit SageUnix to see what else these authors have published. In a matter of minutes I have a list af articles and books by these authors, and, more importantly, some reviews of their books that tell me which have received the most scholarly attention and which might be worth pursuing.

So, in just a few minutes I have a list of web resources put together by someone teaching this subject, as well as a bibliography on the topic and leads to authors in the field.

Before finishing this session I pay a quick visit to Diane Kovacs' Directory of Scholarly and Professional E-Conferences to see if there is an online discussion group related to this topic. I'm in luck. There is a group named ECOFEM and instructions on how to subscribe. Subscribing to the list might put me in touch with experts in this field or at least let me into discussions on this topic.

That's a good beginning!

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Last revised: 10 February 1999
Hope Greenberg
Computing and Information Technology,
Copyright 1999
The University of Vermont