Effective Information Retrieval from the Internet: An advanced user’s guide

by Alison Stacey and Adrian Stacey (Chandos Publishing, 2004): 310pp, £42.50 (pbk), ISBN 978 1 84 3340775.

Reviewed by Lawrence Osborn

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The title tells you all you need to know about the aim of this book. Alison and Adrian Stacey have set out to provide advanced web users with a guide to locating information on the internet efficiently and to assessing the reliability of that information.

Comprehensive survey

Their five chapters provide the reader with a comprehensive survey of the subject, beginning with 'Fundamentals of information retrieval on the internet' in which they define three basic types of information search and offer generic strategies for their implementation. Chapter 2 looks more closely at query choice and includes strategies for finding information not catalogued in search engines (the so-called 'deep web').

In Chapter 3, the authors turn their attention to ways of extending a search, focusing on reformulating search terms, the art of link following and ways of automating information mining (including a crash course in using Python to program various search tools, including a basic web spider). Chapter 4 is perhaps the most helpful chapter in the book, offering valuable advice on assessing websites for accuracy and bias.

You may feel that the concluding chapter on teaching internet searching skills to novice users is not relevant to you, but it is worth skimming for its useful section on common pitfalls in internet searching. The book also contains three brief appendices, which describe search engines and directories and offer some guidelines to novice programmers.

Showing its age

As noted above, the book is certainly comprehensive. It is also well structured and clearly written. The authors have gone to some pains to future proof the text by focusing on concepts and processes rather than on specific techniques for using particular search engines. Nevertheless, the book does show its age at various points and for that reason I can't wholeheartedly recommend it.

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