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Research Commentary on the Spire Project

Keeping up to date with Internet Research Technique and Theory.
By David Novak

I've been studying internet research for such a long time. It is a most unusual topic consisting about 50% search strategy - a topic intimately understood by librarians but relatively unknown in wider circles, and 50% internet technicalities - elements not widely known by anyone and generally just picked up by tinkering with the internet.

To this I have been adding a sociological view, improving the anticipation process integral to exceptional internet research.

So it caught me off guard when I was asked several times after my recent seminars at LISWA:

"Where can I go to keep up to date on internet research?"

I stammered out some bland and trite response. Now I get to answer more fully.

1) SearchEngineWatch
- Website by Danny Sullivan, now owned by
This is the defacto site for comparisons between search engines, though not nearly as revolutionary as it once was. If a new search engine was to emerge that trumped one of the existing stars, you would hear about it in the newspapers. But you could also read about it here.

2) The Research Buzz
- Newsletter/Website by Tara Calishain
I love her work, if only she could refrain from listing so vast an array of new directories and search tools on the web. My interests have moved on, but this is certainly a place polish your skill at anticipating information resources on the internet.

3) Further, and comparable, periodicals on search tools and search resources include:
FreePint and latest newsletter
The Scout Report Of course, newsletters like NetNotes, where this was first published, also focus on these issues.

Once you want to move beyond reviews and search tips, it is time to look at the hard science. A handful of individuals are breaking new ground in studying the way information is organized on the Internet. This is primarily accomplished by detailed recording and analysis of information in particular fields.

4) The Spire Project
- Websites/FAQs/Seminars by David Novak,, Information Research FAQ...
Who knows, yours truly may be the first to uncover the next search techniques. Certainly happened before, like the unknown field searches for Google or a whole raft of new search tools and shortcuts. I am working on a theoretical approach to anticipating internet research. The Spire Project includes many investigations of specific topics, so you may wish to draw your own conclusions from this research. In summary, its big. Its famous. Its just happens to be done by someone in Perth.

5) Direct Search & NewsCenter
- Website by Gary Price and ~gprice/newscenter.htm
Gary extensively documented internet regions like regional newspapers and private databases - the so called 'invisible' web. While Gary draws few conclusions from his work, demarcating these regions of the internet has been a major advance in internet research.

6) Business Information sources on the Internet
- Website by Sheila Webber
This project comes out of the Department of Information Science at the University of Strathclyde. Sheila has demarcated some of the specific business information resources, statistics and a range of related topics with extensive lists. Sheila created this as part of one of her many research projects into the nature of information usage by people searching for business resources. Sheila's personal page resides at

7) BusLib-l
- Prominent Mailing List
Buslib is a mailing list and newsgroup of business librarians the world over. Nothing beats asking someone else when it gets really rough. There are further mailing lists for government document librarians and reference librarians. All these lists tend to be high volume, so we have to be very precise and considerate when using them. (Not the first port of call. Meaningful subject lines. Get to the point.) Of interest to us here, the contents are available as a best-of series from the montague institute ( and most likely archived by

8) Information Research & LIBRES
- Scholarly EJournals
Information Research Ejournal

There - we have covered a collection of resources that have stood the test of time and originality to convince me of their continued usefulness. Knowing the internet, I am sure there are equally as valuable project to consider that I have missed.

More precisely, the next big search technique is just as likely to emerge from someone previously unpublished. Thus, the search engines need to be called into play. I just tried a Google search for +"search strategy" +"information research" +boolean +fields with good effect. A few promising leads include:

  • Finding Information on the Net: a Tutorial
  • A Guide to Effective Searching of the Internet
  • The Invisible Web (from
  • The trouble with this kind of search is a great deal of synthesis is emerging - which does not add to the overall knowledge base of internet research. It is not that such resources are not valuable, just that true innovations are relatively rare. There are actually few people working on innovations or concepts that affect or describe more than one field or topic of research.

    Perhaps you will permit the conclusion to this article be a small plea to communicate innovations you discover with others - perhaps even me. In the mean time, I am sure these will definitely keep you busy.
    * * *
    David Novak manages The Spire Project, an Internet research resource and thinktank.

    * This article first appeared in the NetNews section of Biblia - the Western Australian online library newsletter.

    Afternote: During my recent travels, I happened upon the sections of Ex Libris (a librarian newsletter) which includes interviews with a number of search gurus - specifically asking each where they keep up to date. A fine site for an alternative view on this topic. Start on the left hand column of this page.

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