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7. Know when to look elsewhere.

Don't assume that the Internet contains the sum total of human knowledge. The Net will always surprise you, both with the information that it does contain and with its lack of information on some specific topic.

Part of being a good online searcher is knowing when to stop. The information you want may or may not be available online. And if it is online, it may be buried so deep that it's not worth the time and trouble to locate it.

Your efforts may be better spent getting the information, fact, figure, or whatever you need using conventional printed reference works: almanacs, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and so forth. Start with the reference section at your local library, or ask the reference librarian for help.

Avoiding Search Rage

Based on the results of a survey reported in a recent issue of Danny Sullivan's "Search Engine Report" newsletter, it takes about 12 minutes for the average person to start feeling anger and frustration at not finding what they are looking for on the Net. Consequently, Sullivan recommends that you follow the "10-minute rule."

If you haven't found what you're looking for in 10 minutes, says Sullivan, it's time to try more traditional alternatives-like contacting your local librarian, or picking up the telephone and calling directory assistance to get the phone number of a company that might be able to help you.

Tips

  • For really tough search assignments, your best bet may be to find a recognized expert on the subject. Start by consulting the "Sources and Experts" list compiled by news researcher Kitty Bennett of the St. Petersburg Times. It's available here.

  • You might also consider hiring a professional searcher (or information broker, as they are known in the trade). For recommendations, contact the Association of Independent Information Professionals. Their Web site at www.aiip.org (Figure 7) includes information about the organization's member-referral program.

  • Figure 7 To hire a professional searcher, visit the AIIP Web site (http://www.aiip.org) and look for information about their member referral program.

  • To learn more about becoming a professional searcher yourself, check your local library or favorite out-of-print book source for The Information Broker's Handbook: Third Edition by Sue Rugge and Alfred Glossbrenner. Although it's no longer in print, this book is still considered by information professionals to be the definitive work on the subject.

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