High School/College Partnerships

Communications Studies Supplements

Mining the Internet for Evidence

Stefan Bauschard, Boston College

2001 - WMD Policy : Limited Use or Useless Limits?


While debaters' use of the Internet has been increasing, it largely remains an underutilized resource. This lack of use is really in no way the fault of the participants; the Internet is not a very well organized, making it difficult to retrieve a lot of useful information. And, there really is no sage advice to be given as to how to "beat the system." At the present time, the only real way to effectively use the Internet for debate research is to know where some of the critical information that you are looking for can be found. The purpose of this essay is to introduce you to some of the hottest sites that are available for debate research on some of the most common topics for debate research. If you visit these sites regularly, you are likely to find a lot of useful debate material.

Researching at Government Web Sites

Over the last ten years, the U.S. government has made a sustained effort to place nearly all of its hundreds of thousands of annual publications online. Unfortunately, the publications are not organized topically, but instead are organized by the government agency or contractor that produces the documents. There are a number of agency websites that you should explore when doing research on the weapons of mass destruction topic.

The Department of Defense website (http://www.defenselink.mil/) is an excellent place to do research on this year's topic. Many speech transcripts (http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/), articles (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/articles.html), and other publications (http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/) are available. For example, you can read the DOD's January 2001 report, Proliferation: Threat and Response at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/ptr20010110.pdf. Specific resources on the WMD threat are available through the DOD's Threat Reduction Agency (http://www.dtra.mil/).

The Department of Energy (DOE), an executive branch agency that is charged with advising the President on energy policy, maintains a website at http://www.energy.gov. Although many of the resources are not particularly useful to this topic, the DOE maintains a special section of its website for resources relating to weapons proliferation (http://www.llnl.gov/nai/communication.html). Specific useful publications include A National Strategy Against Terrorism Using Weapons of Mass Destruction (http://www.llnl.gov/str/Imbro.html) and Sharing the Challenges of NonProliferation (http://www.llnl.gov/str/Dunlop.html). There is also a special section on chemical and biological weapons proliferation (http://www.nn.doe.gov/cbnp/). Additional resources are available through the DOE's NonProliferation Office (http://www.nn.doe.gov/).

The State Department, an executive branch agency that functions as the President's main foreign policy advisor, maintains a website (http://www.state.gov/) that features updates on developments in various parts of the world, as well of transcripts of speeches and news items relating to U.S. policy toward various regions. To find information for a particular region, click on "countries and regions." When President Bush took office in January, direct links to the materials from the Clinton administration were removed and much of it has not yet been replaced by material from the Bush administration. The Bush administration material is on its way, however, and you can still access the Clinton administration material by clicking on "archive" links while doing your research.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) is an "independent" arm of Congress that hires experts to provide an objective evaluations of federal programs. The reports do seem very objective and are an excellent source of high quality debate evidence. In the last two months, the GAO has issued a number of reports related to this year's topic, including Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Security of Russia's Nuclear Material (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01312.pdf), Combatting Terrorism: Observations on Operations to Improve the Federal Response (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01660t.pdf), Weapons of Mass Destruction: Efforts to Reduce Russian Arsenals May Cost More, Achieve Less (http://www.gao.gov/archive/1999/ns99076.pdf). You can search the GAO reports at http://www.gao.gov:8765/. New testimony, updated daily, is available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/newtest.htm. You can also subscribe to a daily email alert (http://www.gao.gov/subscrib.html) that will inform you of new GAO reports that are released each day.

One great place to read the commentary of Congress people on many impending policy issues, such as the Nuclear Posture Review, is the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record is a daily compilation of comments made by your Senators and Representatives. You can keyword search the Congressional Record at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces150.htm One central jumping off point for legislative information is Thomas (http://thomas.loc.gov). From Thomas, you can access the Congressional Record, various House and Senate committees, and a bill-tracking service. So, for example, if you want to research the H.R. 216, a bill to prohibit the further production of the Trident II missile, you could type it into the bill/phrase search. From there, you can follow links taking you to Congressional Record statements relating to the bill, links to committees the bill has been referred to, and see the status of the bill http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d107:2:./temp/~bd0CfA:@@@X|/bss/d107query.html

Researching in the News

You can also search the general press, particularly the major newswires (AP, Reuters), at Yahoo (http://dailynews.yahoo.com/). News stories from popular, and even less popular, press sources can be searched at http://www.newsindex.com. Moreover.com (http://www.moreover.com) organizes the newswires based on topics, such as politics or economics. This is useful because you can find all of the stories related to a particular topic, such as your politics disadvantages, in one place. At Researchville (http://www.researchville.com/) you can search over four hundred newspapers, including many regional papers from all over the United States. All of the major papers and news agencies also have their own place on the web, with hourly-updated stories. The Christian Science Monitor can be found at http://www.csm.com, CNN at (http://www.cnn.com), the New York Times at http://www.nyt.com, and the Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com.

Researching in Magazines and Journals

There are many online magazines and journals that are available in the full-text format for free. Time magazine, a general newsweekly, is available online at http://www.time.com. This site has all of the articles of the print edition, as well as a number of articles that are only published in the online edition. Business Week (http://www.businesweek.com), a more conservative periodical, is a great source of information for debating economic positions, particularly inflation, and budget issues. Fortune is also online at http://www.fortune.com. Fortune is a periodical that is focused on corporate business and is a great source of updated articles on the business confidence disadvantage.

You will want to frequently comb the foreign policy journals for new articles that are related to the topic. The Washington Quarterly (http://www.twq.com) is a quarterly periodical that features analysis of contemporary geopolitical issues written by very qualified individuals. This is an excellent place for topic research. Many full-text articles from the popular journal, Foreign Policy, are available at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/. The journal has pledged that all of the archived articles will be available in full text soon. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a liberal journal devoted to arms control issues, is available at http://www.bullatomsci.org/ and Arms Control Today is available at http://www.armscontrol.org/. Another popular journal that deals with international issues is Foreign Affair (http://www.foreignaffairs.org/). Although there are not a large number of full-text articles available online, some of the leading articles from this bi-monthly publication can be found at the website.

One thing that does make it difficult to search magazine and journal articles on the internet is that you largely have to rely on search engines to find individual articles. This can be a painstaking and long process. At FindArticles.com (http://www.findarticles.com) you can do a search of a limited number of full-text periodicals. This is actually one of the only places that you can gain access to the full electronic text of the scholarly journal Orbis.

If you are looking for a more "offbeat" take on the news, you can find a very thorough directory of alternative press resources on the web at http://www.mctc.mnscu.edu/academicAffairs/library/pages/altpress.htm.

Researching the Tanks

Think tanks are groups of public policy specialists and advocates that champion particular outcomes in public policy disputes. Generally, these groups have an ideological focus: libertarian, liberal, conservative, or radically conservative.

Libertarians: Libertarians hold many positions that the conservatives do, though they support a much more minimalist conception of the state, including the abolition of almost all regulation and only very minimal taxes. Libertarians oppose U.S. intervention abroad and support only a minimalist foreign policy. They do not support most foreign. They are a great source of "heg bad" evidence.

Liberals: Generally speaking, liberals believe the opposite of conservatives. Liberals support a large role for the federal government, they often fear devolution of policy-making to the state and local levels, they favor social spending and wealth redistribution, support higher taxes than most republicans, welcome governmental regulation of the private sector, and generally support lower defense spending.

Conservatives: Conservatives generally believe in the following: small-sized government, devolution of government to state and local levels, privatization, low taxes, reduced social spending, and a strong military. Papers at the Heritage Foundation web site, for example, generally argue for one of these perspectives. Most traditional Republicans are conservatives.

Radical Conservatives: Radical Conservatives is really my reference, and may imply something about my political beliefs, but it is still a useful way of categorizing another group. Radical conservatives believe in the core conservative beliefs mentioned above -- a small government -- but also believe strongly in religion and a strong version American patriotism, something that is at least not a generalizable characteristic of the other two groups.

A good example of a Libertarian group on the Internet is the CATO Institute (http://www.cato.org).The CATO Institute is a site that is updated daily that features Policy Analysis (http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/policyanalysis.html), Foreign Policy Briefing (http://www.cato.org/pubs/fpbriefs/foreignbriefs.html), Trade Policy Studies (http://www.freetrade.org/pubs/pubs.html), and Regulation magazine (http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regultn-arch.html), a periodical devoted to fighting government regulation.

The Brookings Institute (http://www.brookings.edu) is a good example of a liberal think tank. The Brookings Institute has a number of foreign policy centers, including the Brown Center for Education Policy (http://www.brookings.edu/gs/brown/brown_hp.htm), The Center for Law Economics, and Politics (http://www.brookings.edu/es/clep/clep_hp.htm) which just started a new project called The Economic Payoff from the Internet (http://www.brookings.edu/es/research/ra12summary.htm). A full-text version of The Brookings Review is available online at http://www.brookings.edu/press/review/rev_des.htm. A large number of speeches, transcripts, and other full-text documents are available.

The Heritage Foundation is probably the most popular conservative think tank at http://www.heritage.org. The site has a number of backgrounders, memorandums, lectures, and data analyses. The site is updated on a regular basis (almost daily) and most of the papers are also organized by issue. You can easily key word search the entire site.

One of the more radically conservative groups on the web is The John Birch Society (http://www.jbs.org) Selected articles from their periodical, The New American, are online at http://www.thenewamerican.com/current_issue/. Documents criticizing Clinton, the U.N. and the decision to give back the Panama Canal are common.

One excellent center for foreign policy analysis that has no particular ideological slant is the Center for Strategic and International Studies (http://www.csis.org.) This site has a number of journals, speeches, and other documents related to global security issues. Scholars at the Center is very prolific (they write a lot), and the site is updated daily. The site has separate directories for Africa, Asia, the Americas, Energy, the environment, Europe, Russia, Turkey, and many others. This is an outstanding site to visit for any international affairs research.

When you are starting a research assignment, think of what side of the political spectrum would support the point of view that you are seeking evidence for. Once you do that, all you need to do is find a think tank on the web that supports it.

Researching the Law

There is an awful lot of legal information available on the web for free. You can access every single Supreme Court decision ever rendered through Findlaw.com at http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/supreme.html. Amicus Briefs, court briefs written to support a particular side in a court case, from the Court's current term are available at http://supreme.findlaw.com/supreme_court/briefs/index.html. You can monitor the entire docket at http://supreme.findlaw.com/supreme_court/resources.html and follow Supreme Court news at http://legalnews.findlaw.com/legalnews/us/sc/. Duhaime's Law Dictionary is available at http://www.wwlia.org/diction.htm

Researching the Military Issues

There are a couple of sites on the Internet that have started to organize papers and other documents from various places on the web that are useful to debaters and other academic researchers. The best, most general, site is Speakout.com (http://www.speakout.com) (formerly, policy.com). This site has a number of papers that are organized by topic -- globalization, global warming, gun control, etc, with papers listed by pro and con. One of their recent daily briefings (http://www.speakout.com/Issues/Briefs/1179/) covers the topic of missile defense. Global Beat (http://www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/) is a site that is devoted to international security issues. Full-text papers are organized both by content and geographic interest. The site is updated daily and contains thousands of useful links. You can sign up for an email delivery of a notice that contains the recent site updates at http://www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/Listserv.html Stratfor.com (http://www.stratfor.com) is another useful international security website. It is updated regularly and contains geopolitical analyses of various parts of the globe. Many of the materials are only available for purchase, but others are available for free.

Topic Specific Searching

Many of the resources that have already been discussed contain a number of topic-specific resources. There are some others that are definitely worth checking out (every day). This include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (http://www.ceip.org/), the Center for Arms Control, Energy, and Environmental Studies (http://www.armscontrol.ru/), the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the Center for Defense Information (http://www.cdi.org/), the Council for a Livable World (http://www.clw.org/pub/clw/), the Council on Foreign Relations (http://www.cfr.org/p/), Foreign Policy in Focus (http://www.fpif.org/), the Federation of American Scientists (http://www.fas.org/), the Harvard Project on Managing the Atom (http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/bcsia/mta.nsf/www/home), the Institute for National and Strategic Studies (http://www.ndu.edu/inss/insshp.html), the Monterey Institute for Nonproliferation Studies (http://www.cns.miis.edu/), the Nautilus Institute (http://www.nautilus.org/), the Nixon Center (http://www.nixoncenter.org/), the Program on New Approaches the Russian Security (http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~ponars/), The Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council (RANSAC) (http://www.ransac.org/), and the Stimson Center (http://www.stimson.org/). Asia specific resources include, the Asia Foundation (http://www.asiafoundation.org/), the National Bureau of Asian Research (http://www.nbr.org/), and the Institute for Defense Studies and Strategic Analysis (http://www.idsa-india.org/). Europe specific resources include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (http://www.nato.int/home.htm) and the Atlantic Council of the United States (http://www.acus.org/).

Listservs and Email Updates

Debate research usually involves a proactive effort by you to go out and seek books and articles that may have relevant pieces of debate evidence in them. In the computer era, however, there are a few different ways to have both articles, and notices of new articles, delivered to you in your email. This will substantially reduce the amount of time that you need to spend collecting citations to articles. The two primary tools for this method of "research" are listservs and email updates.


Listservs are discussion groups for people with interests in particular subjects. If you subscribe to a listserv, every email message that someone posts to the listserv is distributed to all the members of the listserv. All you need to join a listserv is a computer and an email account. There are a number of reasons to join a listserv. First, as a person with particular interests, you can engage in a discussion relating to those interests with everyone else in the world. For example, you can join a discussion about what is going on in high school debate by joining the cx-l, a listserv for debaters. You can join by sending the following email:

TO: listserv@debate.net
MESSAGE: subscribe cx-l Your Name
Second, you can keep yourself updated with new knowledge that is being produced in the community that you are interested in -- you can have free email updates delivered to your email box!
Third, you can join a discussion and express your opinions on matters that you have learned about.
Try joining some of the following listservs. Before you do, though, there are a few things that you should know. One, most listservs will generate a lot of email, sometimes over 50 pieces a day. You must either keep up with reading the email or sign-off. Otherwise, your email box will be quickly become overloaded. When you register for the listserv, you will receive back a list of instructions and guidelines for etiquette on the list. You should save these instructions for when you want to sign-off. Two, don't join too many listservs at once. Your email will become too difficult to manage. Three, remember your manners. On listservs, people have a tendency to be more rude to people than they ever would be in person. Sending a very rude message is called "flaming." Check yourself to prevent sending these messages. Before you send the message, ask yourself, would I really say this to this person to their face and yell it in front of an audience of a 1000 people?!

Email Updates

If you are too lazy to get on the Internet and search for your own updates, you can always rely on your teammates to do the work. This is a good piece of advice if your teammates are not lazy. If they are lazy though, this approach probably isn't going to work. One way to keep yourself updated is to register to have updates sent to you. These updates will not come in card form, but will come to you in article form. These updates usually come on a daily, weekly, or bi-weekly basis and will be sent to your email box. You need to register for these updates. These are some of the updates that you may wish to register for. Just point yourself to the URL that is listed and fill in the necessary information.

Foreign Policy Updates

Conventional Arms Transfer Project (http://www.clw.org/cat/email.html)
Foreign Policy Magazine (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/)
Foreign Policy In Focus (http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/) (at bottom left of page)
Global Beat. Weekly digest of updates on the Global Beat Web site (http://www.nyu.edu/globalneat/Listserv.html)

Domestic Policy Updates

Citizens for Tax Justice (http://www.ctj.org/html/ctjguest.htm)
Electronic Political Network (http://www.epn.org/) (at bottom left hand side of the page). This provides updates for the following sites:
Brookings Institute - www.brookings.edu
Campaign for America's Future - www.ourfuture.org
Center for Budget and Policy priorities -- www.cbpp.org
Citizens for Tax Justice - www.ctj.org
Financial Markets Center - www.fmcenter.org
Institute for Economic Analysis www.iea-macro-economics.org
National Health Law Program - www.healthlaw.org
The Urban Institute - www.urban.org

Government Updates

White House Releases (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/index.html)

Periodical Updates

Forbes (http://www.forbes.com)
The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/)

Newspaper Updates

Moreover.com (http://www.moreover.com)

Researching with Search Services

The most popular, and still occasionally useful, way to search through the web is by using popular search services such as Altavista (http://www.altavista.com), Google (http://www.google.com) and Hotbot (http://www.hotbot.com).

In order to maximize each of these services, it is useful to understand how each of them work: Can you do a boolean search, a phrase search, or both? Can you search in particular domains, such as .org or .mil? Can you restrict your search by date? Do pages that have the keyword(s) you searched appearing near one another get rated the highest? Are pages that have a large number of direct hits -- pages that other people use for a long period of time -- returned highest in the results list?
Many search services use the same search engines so I have been careful to use the term search services rather than engines. Yahoo, for example, relies on results produced through the Inkotami search engine when it can't find results in its directory and Iwon.com uses Inkotami both to build its organized directory and for its search results. Hotbot also uses Inkotami results for its search results and combines them with results from the Human Directory. Netscape uses its own results and Google results to produce the returns. This is important to understand to prevent yourself from wasting time doing redundant searches.

Google (http://www.google.com)

Google is, without a doubt, the best search engine for doing debate research. Many other researchers and users share my accolades, as Google won the most favored search engine award this year. Google offers a number of advantages over the other search engines and services. First, it prioritizes the cataloging of government, educational, and organizational websites, which means that it will have a lot of the sites that you are interested in searching already catalogued. Second, its site depth is outstanding. Site depth simply refers simply to how far into the site (/ / /) the engine catalogues. According to Search Engine Watch, Google catalog five to six layers deep, far deeper than any of the other search engines. So, it is more likely to have those full?text documents that you are looking for catalogued in its book than anyone else. Its search results are based on the popularity of sites linking to it and the quality of those sites. So, if you have a website that has a high number of large and popular websites that have a link to your site, your site will get rated high in the search results. One thing to watch is that Google has indexed almost three quarters of a million pages from Yahoo. These are simply links back to Yahoo's directories. So, once you are through with your Google search you may not gain much by going back to Yahoo.


AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com)

AltaVista was considered to have the largest number of individual web pages cataloged until Google. It seems to have shifted its focus first from being a search engine for traditional research, to being a portal that offers shopping networks, travel information, and other features that are designed to attract raw users to the site, and now back to a research center. It received the most votes (8) in Search Engine Watch.com's survey for the worst search engine. Since this report, Altavista has claimed to increase the number of cataloged pages to 550 million and stripped?down some of the general portal features to improve its search engine. I have found Altavista useful for finding specific reports that I had read about and was looking to see if those reports were available online. If you find a specific report when reading a news article and want to find it on the web, try typing its title into Altavista in as such (Report.on.Nuclear.Proliferation). If you simply type in "Report on Nuclear Proliferation," Altavista will return ever document it has indexed with any one of those words in it. Altavista has just recently added the New York Times to its news search service (http://news.altavista.com). Be careful, however, because only the abstracts and the titles are available. If you are interested in reading the full text, you will need to go directly to the New York Times website (http://www.nyt.com). I used to recommend Altavista as the first place to go for debate research, now I think that Google clearly beats it out. But, if you haven't found what you are looking for searching with Google, you should try Altavista.

Ask Jeeves (http://www.askjeeves.com/)

I have included this not because I am fond of it, or because I have much experience using it, but simply because it is popular. The format for searching here is somewhat unique because you simply enter a question that you are looking for information on. I asked Jeeves, "Why is nuclear proliferation bad?" Although Jeeves tried to answer my question with a list of relevant links, including the NonProliferation Review (which was 5th in its list of results), most of the links took me to places that were of low academic quality or were news stories. I retrieved much higher quality information when using Google. This may be due to the fact that Ask Jeeves relies heavily on popularity when displaying links. Since most people will not read more advanced resources, this method isn't that helpful for those who wish to find more advanced resources on the web. Also, when you click on the documents they are buried in an Ask Jeeves header with a URL that is tied to Ask Jeeves. This makes noting the URL for citation purposes particularly difficult.

Hot Bot

HotBot is easy to use because all of the "fine?tuning controls" are on the first page. You can limit your search to "any" or "all" keywords, filter words, restrict dates, or limit the domains you are searching in. This is a particularly quick way to do many advanced searches. Its primary unique feature is that you can limit your searches to web pages that use specific technologies, such as JAVA, but that isn't very useful for debate research. That may be useful for other projects, however.

You can limit your search to particular domains such as .edu, .com, and .org. Org has the best materials for debate purposes so you may want to try limiting a search to that domain if your searches are retrieving too much information.
One major drawback to using Hotbot for debate research is that Hotbot uses a new popularity?based service called Direct?Hit which tracks which results users click on and how long they stay at a site. The greater the number of clicks, and the greater the amount of time a user spends at a site, the higher it will be ranked in the search results. The first page of results you see will likely be generated by the Direct Hit service. This is not necessarily best for debaters because academic research is not one of the most popular uses of the Internet. Direct hit results are also more likely to take you to less?relevant commercial sites, which are more frequently used. Secondary results come from the Inkotami engine and its directory information comes from the Open Directory project.

Excite (http://www.excite.com)

Excite is a less popular search service that has some unique features. I suggest using it after you have tried the other engines because many of the features are not that useful for debate research, and some may actually hinder it.
If you enter a word many times it will increase its relevancy ranking. This relevancy ranking approximates a subject search because if a word appears many times in a Web page, that Web page probably has a lot to do with that keyword. Alta Vista's approach of ranking based on whether or not the word appears at the beginning of the document or in the title is designed to accomplish this task, but this is also an effective way of doing it.
Excite will not just search for the words you type in, but instead conducts a "concept" search, providing references to similar topics. Concept searching is the default searching mode. You can search by keyword only, but you need to select that from the option menu.
One important item that is missing when your Excite results are returned is the size of the page. Page size is useful because it will help you discern whether a particular web page is worth clicking on. After all, who wants to click on a web page that is only one or two paragraphs in length when doing debate research?

Iwon.Com (http://www.iwon.com)

Iwon.com is the hottest growing search portal. Its popularity is not due to any specific, unique feature, but rather to one feature: each time you use it you are entered into a drawing for a huge cash prize. Every day Iwon.com gives away $10,000, once a month it gives away $1 million, and this Spring (April 17), it will give away $10 million. Despite the opportunity to win a lot of money, this isn't the best search service to use for debate purposes for a number of reasons.
First, Iwon.com relies on the Inkotami search engine for its search results. This is the same engine that Hotbot uses for its results. You can get most of these results through Hotbot, plus take advantage of the other features.
Second, the Inkotami engine has less pages cataloged than AltaVista's engine. For a specific search, you probably want to use AltaVista. For a broader search, Inkotami is less useful because it builds its directories primarily through the automated crawlers that build the search base. Inkotami does not support frame searching, instant indexing, or cataloging image maps.
Third, Inkotami uses link popularity to determine the search rankings. The problems with relying heavily on this were identified above.


Netscape is a great place to search because:
- it uses the Google search engine results,
- it has its own "smart browsing" database that lists "official" websites ?? a good way to get high quality sites,
-it uses results from the "Open Directory," one of the largest and best human?compiled web directories in existence. Using Netscape is a very good way to search a many useful engines and directories at once.

Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com)

Northern light is useful because it has a huge index of web resources and clusters documents by topic. Northern Light will also return documents from thousands of news sources, including magazines and newswires. There is no fee to search these documents, but you do need to pay to access the documents from the magazines. There are many sources here, however, that are not on Lexis-Nexis. There are over 7,100 periodicals and research reports available. So, if your opponent has a citation that you would like to get and you cannot find it on Lexis-Nexis, you may want to try finding it here.
One feature of Northern Light that you may find useful is a company search. If you are doing research on a particular company, you can type in, for example, "Company: Microsoft" to find information about that particular company.

NBCi (http://www.nbci.com)

NBCi is owned by NBC and is the new face of the service formerly known as Snap.com. The word on the street is that NBC is withdrawing their support from the site and it is likely to go out of business. So, I would rely on this one for research!!!


The important thing to know about Yahoo is that Yahoo is a directory and not a search engine. The directory is compiled by humans that peer review potential entries to determine if they are valuable. Generally, only the home page of a site is indexed, so if you use it, you may be missing searches of many documents. If Yahoo cannot find what you are looking for, it will automatically run a search on Google and return those results to you.

General Tips

The web contains a lot of information that isn't useful for debate purposes and the cataloging method is necessarily poor. Using the search engines properly will help you avoid some of your searching problems, but it will not solve them entirely. You need to be patient.
Search .org domains only. Com sites rarely have any, unless you want to count some company's advertisement as a document. The exception here are com sites that house search engines for periodicals (www.sfgate.com/wais/-chron.html). Edu sites do have some full-text documents but not that many. Professors don't seem to be into Web publishing. Org sites have the most. These organizations are usually trying to influence the policy process by attracting followers so they publish their points of view for free. Gov sites also have a lot of government documents. "Net" sites are too much of a crap shoot because, remember, net sites may actually house an .org, a .com, an .edu, or a .gov file server. If you have a limited amount of time (don't all of us?) click on the search engine returns that reference .org sites. Most of the search services and engines will allow you to click on an "advanced search" button so that you can get access to a form that will allow you to do a more directed search. Since .org domains as a whole have the largest number of useful debate materials, you may wish to search just .org domains. You can do this by selecting those domains exclusively on the advanced search form. At least both Google and Hot Bot will allow you to do this.

Learn to use one search engine properly before you try to use them all. You do want to learn how to use all of the major search engines, however, as they each offer some unique features and may have catalogued some different Web pages.

Keep your searches as narrow as possible. Search engines always return too many, not too few, search results.

Read through the instructions on each search engine's Web page. I have provided some general instructions here, but the search engines will change how they work from time to time and the most current information will be found there.

If you click on a link produced by a search result and the link is broken (it will not take you to the Web page), try eliminating everything but the base URL from the referenced link and enter that into your browser. The exact location of the page within that site may have changed and if it is still online you should be able to find it by surfing or searching that particular site.

Don't rely on search engines to search the current news. Spiders only travel the Web so fast, returning to a particular site every month or so at best. If you want to read the current news you will have to direct your browser to particular current news sites, such as Reuters on the Yahoo page.

Conclusion: The Continuing Search

In this brief essay, I have had the opportunity to highlight what I think are some of the most useful sites for debate research, explain the political organization of the web, and provide an explanation and suggestions for using listservs, email updates, and search services. The resources that I have outlined, however, are really just the tip of the iceberg. For more resources, and more advice, you should point yourself in the direction of the Hitchhiker's Website, the web companion to the Hitchhiker's Companion to the 2000-2001 Debate Topic and the forthcoming Forensics Internet Guide, a comprehensive, 350 page, topically-organized directory to over 1500 web sites with useful, full-text information for debate and speech contestants.