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Version Mai 2001
Topic (& topic tablet Instructions)

The importance of your 'topic' should n2>Topic (& topic tablet Instructions)

The importance of your 'topic' should not be underestimated, especially in the preparation phase of your search. In fact you should first of all decide if your topic is likely to be addressses on the Internet at all. There are more easy to find resources for computers and natural sciences than for humanities and social sciences, for instance. Also the information posted on the web is often NOT updated, and once you have found your quarry, you'll often have to check if there is an updated copy around (very important, but very often forgotten). Your topic will also influence your search approach choices (search engines vis--vis combing and luring, for instance), and, if you decide to start your query with a search engine you'll have also to choose which search engine(s) you will use according to your topic (a good rule of thumb, if you cannot remember which specific engine should be used for which search, is to repeat the same search AT LEAST on Altavista, Fast and Google). Anyway the following 'topic' part is actually dedicated to the preparational 'linguistic' work you should make BEFORE shooting your first querystring, in order to prepare that very querystring.

Your ability to find the information you seek on the Internet is a function of how precise your queries are and how effectively you use a plethora of search services. Poor queries return poor results; good queries return good results. Contrary to the hype surrounding "intelligent agents" and "artificial intelligence," the fact remains that search results are only as good as the query you pose, which will decide a lot about how you will be able to 'feel' your search. There is no magical solution, but there are some useful tools, and the best one is a pencil with a sheet of white paper.
Internet searchers (perhaps you too) that use only a couple of words in a query finish to spend endless hours perusing useless documents that do not contain any of the fishes they were looking for.
There are, however, some effective ways to structure your queries, using boolean and other operators to target the quarry you seek, these parameters are explained elsewhere on this site. Absent these techniques the common lore is that you will usually give up in frustration after having reviewed without results long lists of documents... yet searching is also an art...
The following needs some 'feeling', but can be quite effective: at times a simple "broad" search, for instance on altavista "simple" query form, where you just add a long series of query-related terms, can deliver incredibly accurate results. In order to decide which are the best query-related terms my 'topic tablet' could be -I believe- of some help.

Use of the topic tablet: You should try to fill ALL fields - if applicable - since the more 'specifity' you obtain BEFORE starting your query, the more relevant results you'll get from the beginning.
Note that the best FIRST use of the collected data is -for once- NOT on the advanced altavista search form, but on the SIMPLE altavista search form, where you'll just impose the FIRST term of the query, and leave all other terms free to float, separating them with commas (see the two first examples). Once you'll have identified the 'signal' among the noise you'll be able to cut more effectively through the boolean and time restraints on the advanced form.
Have a look at the example I have prepared to understand its working and then print the muster (for your future use). Your PC, a sheet of paper (with the tablet on it), a pencil... and you'r set to go and find!
~S~ fravia+, March 2000

~S~ Topic tablet
version 200003
Broad subject (quarry)
Unique words
Synonims and variants
Words likely to be present
in any document
Fixed strings
Irrelevant & extraneous
Broader topics
Extra, special for this query

[A muster]
Ready to be printed
[An example]
See a classical example

Petit image

(c) 2000: [fravia+], all rights reserved