INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Internet Searching for Dummies
by Brad Hill
published in 1998 by IDG Books
340pp ISBN 0 7645 0478 9 23.99 (includes CDROM)

The Advanced Internet Searcher's Handbook
by Phil Bradley
published in 1998 by Library Association Publishing
248pp ISBN 1 85604 302 9 29.95

A guide to finding quality information on the Internet
by Alison Cooke
published in 1999 by Library Association Publishing
176pp ISBN 1 85604 267 7 29.95

Exploiting the Internet as an Information Resource in Schools
by James E Herring
published in 1999 by Library Association Publishing
192pp ISBN 1 85604 279 0 24.95

Internet Searching for Dummies, The Advanced Internet Searcher's Handbook, A guide to finding quality information on the Internet and Exploiting the Internet as an Information

The growth in the amount of data on the Internet over the past five or so years means that besides it becoming a far more effective research resource we have a need to structure our searches so that we get valid, quality and manageable hits. Fortunately as the resource has grown so has the sophistication of the tools available for us to manage this potential information.

The Dummies Guide may not suit all tastes as it is written from a USA viewpoint and in the 'lively' Dummies style which you either like or hate. This book covers the common search tools (such as Altavista) as well as the directory services (such as Lycos), and considers newsgroup searching and people locating. The essential syntax needed to refine your searching strategies is clearly described. The book also includes a list of useful specific database web addresses. It's very much a 'how to' book rather than a consideration of why or quality issues. The CDROM contains a collection of potentially useful support tools for Internet searching as well as other utilities.

The Advanced Internet Searcher's Handbook is definitely British and starts to consider information quality issues; not surprisingly as it is written by an Information Science professional. Besides the expected introduction to the Internet this book follows with a look at the common index and free-text search engines, but then extends into the newer meta-search engines (such as Metaplus). Also covered is a section on intelligent agents (systems that actively search out what they think you will find useful). Again it covers newsgroups and mailing lists. The probable strength of this book is it goes on to consider the 'whys' of looking for information, clarifying your ideas about your search and providing 'Thirty tips and hints for better and quicker searching'.

Starting life as doctoral research Finding Quality Information is, as you may expect, more academic in nature with an extensive annotated bibliography. This doesn't distract from it's style and it is a very readable book. It starts by defining quality (not surprisingly that depends on the user's perspective) and then sets up checklists and examples of how particular sources can be evaluated - these ideas don't just apply to Internet material and are as valid for any other 'traditional' sources. Even the validity of personal home pages is addressed.

Herring's Exploiting the Internet takes this process one step further and contains much that would apply to using any information source but contextualised for Internet purposes. This book suffers from the NCET to BECTa change of name with most references changed but odd ones missed. The first section of the book reviews the use of IT in schools and school libraries and how it is affecting the curriculum (including the development of school acceptable use policies). It then moves on to the analysis of sources and quality information. This features the authors 'PLUS' model (purpose, location, use and self-evaluation) for the information skills process, as well as reviewing that of several other authors. The core of the book then looks at individual subject areas and backing up how and what can be done with case studies of schools from the UK and abroad. Finally, a consideration of creating instructional websites and school intranets is provided. Unfortunately the quality of the screen printouts in the text is rather poor.

Who are these books for? As you can tell by the publisher for three of the books, a major target are those librarians who are finding themselves supporting learners who now have access to the excessively extensive resources of the Internet. As a consequence these books are firmly rooted in the field of Information Studies and would make a useful contribution to anyone who is considering their approach to research methods - the book to focus on would be the one nearest to the context of the research. Finding Quality Information will find it's way onto the reading list for a Masters module I run on Information Handling in the Classroom, whereas the Dummies Guide and the Advanced Searcher's Handbook would form a sound core for any course looking at the practicalities of finding information on the Internet (your choice of book would be based on your cultural and style preferences). As for Exploiting the Internet this would make a useful book for the secondary staffroom library as it is ideal for passing around to demonstrate real practical ideas.

The important thing to note is that the Internet changes rapidly. However, these books are probably up to date as printed material can be, with most sites having been visited 4-6 months prior to the date of publication. Surfing implies staying on the surface, with these books beside you you'll be able to get in deeper than that.

Neil Stanley
Reviews Editor