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The World Wide Web is a vast information resource. This free course, Information on the web, will provide you with the foundation skills to use search engines confidently to locate both information and images on the Web. You will also learn how to critically assess and reference the information you have found for study purposes.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- use search engines confidently to locate information and images on the web
- address critically resources that have been located on the web
- describe some of the processes underlying search engines.
- Learning outcomes
- Information on the web
- 1 Accessing online information
- 2 How to do it
- 3 An Internet search example
- 4 What's going on
- 5 What it means
- 6 Where to learn more
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
When you submit your query, the search engine will look up each word of the query in the index and construct a list of hits. Hits are pages that contain all of the words in your query.
If you perform an advanced search, additional filters are applied to the hit list. For example, if you search for documents in the .ac.uk domain only, pages from other domains will be excluded from the hit list.
Some search engines provide extra features. Most will check the spelling of the words you entered, and warn you if you make a spelling mistake (but remember that many web pages use American spelling). Some offer stemming, that is, including common grammatical variants. Some may search for common synonyms as well as the word you typed.
Replacing grammatical variants of a word by its root or stem; for example replacing 'searches' and 'searching' by 'search'.
Look at your favourite search engine. Which of these features does it offer? Look for the help pages or search tips.
4.3.1 Searching for images
When I searched for an image of a gorilla, was the search engine really recognising images of gorillas? The answer is no. Instead it was searching for the text 'gorilla' associated with the image – in the filename, in the alt text description or in the text surrounding the image on the web page.
Alt text is a description of an image for people who might have difficulty seeing the image itself. It can be seen when a mouse is passed over the image.
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Information and Communication Technologies courses or view the range of currently available OU Information and Communication Technologies courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 17th March 2016
Last updated on: Thursday, 17th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
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All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
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