The science behind wheeled sports
The science behind wheeled sports

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The science behind wheeled sports

1.3 Study skill: effective internet use

The study skill we focus on in this course concerns using the internet effectively.

As suggested in other units, the internet contains a lot of useful information and is an invaluable study aid, but there is so much information available that finding useful material can sometimes be difficult and time consuming.

There are various techniques that you can use to help you locate useful information effectively, including:

  • searching with a range of keywords
  • choosing more descriptive keywords
  • using search engine commands to control the range of your search.

Activity 1 asks you to use the third technique to search the internet for information about mountain biking.

Activity 1 Searching for information on the internet

(The estimated time needed to complete this activity is 20 minutes.)

Imagine that you are trying to research the success of British athletes in mountain biking at the Olympics.

Use the following steps to search the internet for information about this topic. For each step, make sure that you write down the answer to the question(s) asked before moving on.

  1. Open a new internet browser window or tab on your computer and go to the home page of your preferred search engine.
  2. Search for information using the term 'mountain + biking', without quotation marks. This will find all websites that include both the words 'mountain' and 'biking'.
    • a.How many websites does your search engine find?
    • b.View the list of websites. (Note that you should only view the descriptions in the search engine results, not access the actual websites.) Do the first three websites listed appear useful - in other words, do you think they might contain information about British mountain biking at the Olympics?
  3. Now search for information using the term 'mountain + biking + Britain + Olympics', without quotation marks. This will find websites that include all of these terms.
    • a.How many sites does your search engine find?
    • b.Once again, view the list of websites. Do the first three sites from this search appear useful?
  4. Now search for information using the term '“mountain biking” + Britain + Olympics', including the double quotation marks. This will find websites that include 'Britain', 'Olympics' and the specific phrase 'mountain biking'.
    • a.How many websites does your search engine find?
    • b.Do the first three sites listed appear useful?
  5. Finally, search for information using the term '“mountain biking” + Britain + Olympics + results', including the double quotation marks.
    • a.How many websites does your search engine find?
    • b.Once again, look at the first three sites. Do they look useful?

Comment

The number of websites on the internet changes continually, so each person doing these searches might find a different number of search results in each case, and the first three sites listed by the search engine might also change over time. Using a variety of search engines will also give different results.

At the time of writing (2010), one search engine gave the following results for part (a) of each search:

  • 'mountain + biking' = more than 12 million results
  • 'mountain + biking + Britain + Olympics' = about 130 000 results
  • '“mountain biking” + Britain + Olympics' = about 88 000 results
  • '“mountain biking” + Britain + Olympics + results' = about 4000 results.

Although your results may differ from ours you probably found the same trend. The more keywords you search for, the fewer sites you find. Even so, you can see that the number of results for all four cases is still so high that you couldn't possibly view all of those websites. However, better-chosen keywords will also help determine which websites appear near the top of the list.

You might also have noted that searching for the specific phrase 'mountain biking' was better than looking for the two words separately.

In terms of the usefulness of the websites your searches found, the first three sites listed will vary depending on when you did your search. (If you try this exercise again tomorrow, you could get different results.) However, once again, the trend should be the same. The better your chosen keywords, the more relevant websites you will find. It is therefore worth spending a little time choosing your search terms carefully.

Incidentally, so far, Britain has never won a medal in mountain biking at the Olympics. We asked you not to look at the websites returned by your searches, just their description. Do you think you would have found this information by searching with this set of keywords?

As you work through this course, you will be asked to find information about various topics on the internet. Choosing suitable keywords is one of the most effective ways of reducing the time you spend doing this.

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