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Barrett, D. J. NetResearch: Finding Information Online. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates, 1997.

Daniel J. Barrett is an experienced computer user with years of searching the Internet under his belt. He apparently found his wife on the Net, so he must know what he is talking about! Barrett's book provides a refreshing approach to the art of finding information online. Instead of focusing on the where - no (potentially outdated) lists of resources...well..maybe just a short one - he concentrates on how. Neither does he rely on particular features of search programs or resources. He recognises the futility of such an approach, and instead he focuses on using intuition and developing search techniques to turn the reader into an effective searcher.

The book is in four parts: introduction; methods; related topics; and a short list of jump-off points for searching the Internet. Special search tips for users of America Online, CompuServe, Microsoft Network, and Prodigy are included. Each of the eleven chapters end with a quiz; answers can be found at the end of the book. In addition to reinforcing the material covered in that chapter, these quizzes might be useful for people who teach others to search effectively. An overview of the major forms of communication on the Net (WWW, Gopher, FTP, Usenet news, email, and so on) is also given; such chapters can perhaps be skipped by the more experienced user.

Chapters 5-9 form the substance of the book, and describe methods for "power searching". These advanced chapters cover such topics as: passive, active and meta-search engines; keywords and operators; search strategies (general /specific /incremental /substring /category /search-and-jump /search-and-rank); computer and domain names; and finding freely distributable software. Chapter 8 looks at mailing lists, newsgroups and chat groups. Surprisingly, Barrett only deals with what they are and how they work. There is no mention of posting queries or searching the archives; consequently, this chapter feels incomplete. The most technical material in the book - and it is still very basic - comes in Chapter 10, when Barrett describes creating a web page to organise bookmarks.

NetResearch engages the brain, encouraging the reader to reconsider how they think about the Internet, and to reflect on why searches fail or succeed. Barrett finds good ways of conceptualising the Internet: URLs are the Dewey Decimal System of the Internet; creating a web site can be like holding a seminar for interested parties. Useful to both the novice and the expert, the book equips the reader with the skills to rapidly locate information on the Internet, using a range of available resources - web search engines, specialized sites, FAQs, or even guess work! Indirectly, it also provides a guide to good netiquette. This helpful book is well organised and easy to use, with useful figures and clear tables. The case studies and quoted opinions do not add anything to the book, and become slightly irritating. However, useful information and URLs are dotted in side bars throughout.

The tools may change, but the principles to locate what you need in the ever-changing online world will remain. NetResearch is a good investment that will most likely be useful for a long time to come. A handy book to have beside your computer whenever you venture out on the Internet.

Sarah Ashton
Department of Information Studies
University ofSheffield