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What do you want to find?

That sounds easy enough!

But the webhound emphatically states that before you start madly clicking, you should define your goal as narrowly as possible and identify related terms. In this section, we will show you how to set up your search in a logical and useful fashion. This "scoping" will focus your later efforts. Trust us.

Write down the topic...

It may be as general as "pictures of wild animals" or as specific as "the number of left-handed female construction workers in New York City in 1960". First, write your goal as a question.

I am interested in comparing the historic development and records of numbering systems used by the Egyptian and Mayan civilizations. My question might then be written as:

"What are the similarities and differences between numbering systems developed in the Egyptian and Mayan Civilizations? How are they represented?"

Nature of the search...

Try to categorize the type of information you are looking for. Is it:

  • Geographic?
  • Academic?
  • Governmental?
  • Historical?
  • Recently occurring?
  • Business related?
  • Fictional?
  • Commercial?
  • Educational?
  • Specific Fact / Reference?
    (a date, address, data, value)
  • Pictures?
  • Software?
  • Entertainment?
For comparing numbering systems used by the Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, we might expect information related to the location of the civilizations (Geographic); associated with research institutions (Academic, Historical); and perhaps we would even find photographs (Pictures).

Identify broad categories

Before getting specific, you will find it useful to identify the broader subject areas that might include your topic (You will see how this comes into play when we look at sites that are organized by subject headings).

Some of the broader categories that might include information on numbering systems in Egyptian and Mayan civilizations include History, Archaeology, and Mathematics.

Some likely suspects

It can also help to identify organizations that might be involved in the topic of interest. Sometimes you can even successfully guess their Internet address! This is still wild brainstorming, but again is useful for lining up your potential sources.

Some organizations that might investigate Egyptian and Mayan civilizations are the Smithsonian Institution, the governments of Egypt and Mexico, the Archaeology departments of universities, perhaps there is even some society of Historical Mathematics.

Specific keywords

If you use web search sites, you will need to identify specific keywords that describe your topic. Beware of any ambiguities that may arise from your choice. They should be as unique as possible, but don't discard any at this time.

For numbering systems in the Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, we might consider the keywords: "number", "numeral", "digit", "counting", "architecture", "picture".

Here's what to do...

As an exercise, think of a topic that you would like to research on the web. Try to organize your own search by using our Scoping the Search Worksheet.

Look at where you are...

After being with the webhound for this section:

  • Have you written your search topic as a question?
  • Have you written related keywords?
  • Have you identified the nature of the search?
  • Have you identified the broad categories that include your topic?
  • Have you identified any organizations that might be associated with your topic?

The next step...

As you begin to accumulate information, you want to make sure that you keep track of what you find. Next, we will provide some tips for Using Your Tools or you can go back to the webhound's home to choose another section.


maricopa center for learning & instruction (mcli)
find it from mcli about mcli mcli home mcli home
Scoping the Search
Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (mcli)
the 'net connection at MCLI is Alan Levine
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last modified: 10-May-02 : 3:17 PM
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