The Internet has changed research dramatically. Now,\n it\u2019s hard to resist defaulting to search engines,\n especially Google, as its capabilities grow. But\n you miss opportunities to get valuable insights into IT\n topics if you rely only on search engines.\n MORE ON CIO.com\n \n In Search of the Right Search Technology for Your Customers\n \n Finding Value in Enterprise Search Options\n \n Wikipedia\u2019s Awkward Adolescence\n \n Five Things Wikipedia\u2019s Founder Has Learned About Online Collaboration\n Professional librarians and researchers will tell you that\n the Web has many unexplored opportunities for finding more\n information on business topics. Pursue these six techniques to\n improve your research results:1. Use Search Engines and Wikipedia to Find Quality\n Research SourcesSearch engines are a good\n place to begin. It makes sense to start at search sites like\n Google, Yahoo and Ask.com, and to see if there\u2019s an\n article on Wikipedia. But use them to carry you\n to better places.\n\n \u201cWikipedia itself is very hit or miss,\u201d says Ann\n Cullen, an adjunct professor at Simmons College\u2019s library science\n program and curriculum services librarian at Harvard\n Business School's Baker Library. \u201cI have seen\n Wikipedia entries that shocked me because of what was not\n included. And others blew me away because they were so\n good.\u201d Cullen adds that \u201cWikipedia is an\n excellent avenue for finding other resources, but Wikipedia\n itself should not be the source.\u201dOther search engines like GeniusFind and Beaucoup categorize topic-specific\n databases such as network solutions and software platforms,\n making them a good place to start.2. Search Blogs for Specialized Experts Who Sift Through\n the Web for YouBlogs and forums are online homes for\n subject experts. One way to use Google as a jumping-off place\n is to perform a keyword search using its Blog Search function.Blogs are a fantastic way to see what your colleagues around\n the world are thinking about on any given topic, from supply\n chain management to any kind of system implementation. But go\n in with eyes wide open: Google often brings you to sites that\n want to sell you something.\u201cIt\u2019s hard to separate \u2018selling\u2019\n from trend discussion and learning,\u201d says Jessamyn West, technology librarian and\n international speaker, who has a popular library blog\n (www.librarian.net) that keeps library\n professionals up to date on research and technology\n trends.But again, Google isn\u2019t the only search engine that\n allows you to move efficiently through blogs. Cullen at Harvard\n Business School\u2019s Baker Library says, \u201cThe best\n blog search I\u2019ve seen, which breaks it out by categories,\n is QuackTrack.\u201d QuackTrack is a large browsable blog\n index, listing more than 11,000 blogs under technology and\n its subcategories.If you can sift through the selling, a blog is a great way\n to get information, West says. Technorati, a site that aggregates\n user-generated content like blogs, has a popularity index\n for its material that is a good way to gauge how reliable\n the information you\u2019re reading is. Cullen says,\n \u201cIf you can move through the noise on blogs, depending\n on the subject they might be a great way to get insight on\n what people are thinking.\u201dBlogs also save you time. \u201cIf you find people who blog\n on your topic, then they will link to other valuable and\n relevant sites. Then you don\u2019t have to read 100 blogs,\n but you read the blog of the guy who reads 100 blogs,\u201d\n says West.Anther website that helps locate blogs is Blogdigger.If you find a blog you like, subscribe to its RSS feed so\n you are alerted to updates. Checking to see how many\n subscribers or comments a blog has is another way to determine\n how much to trust what the blogger says.Reading the comments can be as valuable as reading the blog\n itself. Blogs create an environment for dialog, so it\n isn\u2019t just the author\u2019s thoughts that are worth\n reading.To that end, finding forums of real people's discussions is\n a great way to learn about trends and hot topics, as well as to\n get feedback on a specific software or company. For example,\n Cullen points to Harvard Business School\u2019s Working Knowledge, which is a forum for\n business innovation conversations, broken down by topic and\n industry. Vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft have user forums. And users\n have their own forums, for subjects like extreme programming and software quality assurance.3. Study Business School WebsitesAcademic institutions share their knowledge\n online. If you locate a school with a good MBA\n program, one that has incorporated technology elements into its\n curriculum, you can read the information being released by the\n students or professors. \u201cAcademics are often the only\n people publishing statistics on business technology,\u201d\n West says. \u201cAnd if they are into a particular technology\n topic, they are likely to blog about it.\u201dYou can use Google to look for business school websites and\n their library branches; there are more than 200 of these\n universities and associations, and more than 200 MBA blogs.\n Each site has different research resources. Cullen also directs\n Harvard MBA students to BizSeer, a free online database of\n academic business literature (that also allows you to search\n business schools).Or, pick a business school and look at its library\u2019s\n electronic resources page. For example, Harvard\u2019s Baker\n Library has a website page that links to professional\n researchers, such as New York Public Library\u2019s Express\n Research Service which charges a fee for research.\u201cMany of the research databases that a business school\n has will be resources that companies use,\u201d Cullen says.\n \u201cAt Harvard Business School, the resources\n we select are often the resources our students will be using\n in their jobs.\u201d\n What's Trustworthy Online?\n How do you know what information you can trust\n online? Here are five tips from a research\n librarian:1. The URL domain: If a URL ends in\n .edu, .gov or .org, you can bet the information\n you\u2019ll find there is primary. Primary sources are\n more authoritative than secondary sources.2. Website audience size and reach.\n This is especially true for blogs. The more people who\n link to it or subscribe to it, the more you can trust\n it.3. Membership ranks. For trade\n associations, check out what companies are listed as\n members. Big names that you recognize will tell you the\n association is reputable.4. Source materials. Think about\n Wikipedia. Wikipedia itself is not trustworthy because\n it is written by anyone, not necessarily an expert, and\n includes articles by contributors with an agenda.\n Scroll to the bottom of the entry and go to the links\n that are cited under References. The more references\n (ideally to news articles or books), the more\n trustworthy the wiki entry.5. Quality of links and listed\n resources. Generally, the more primary the\n information, the better. But you\u2019re busy. So look\n for a good aggregator of firsthand information. For\n example, a blog might cite a book that cites a white\n paper. You can\u2019t necessarily trust the blog, or\n even the book. And the white paper is the result of\n months of research.If you can access that raw research itself,\n that\u2019s the most perfect source of information,\n but \u201cthe white paper is where a CIO should go,\n not to the research,\u201d says technology librarian\n Jessamyn West. \u201cHalf the trick of being CIO is\n finding good, secondary cultivators of primary\n sources.\u201d4. Find Statistical Data on Government SourcesGovernment sites publish public data. They may not have\n cutting-edge information on your topic of choice, but\n government sites are great for hard data and statistics, both\n current and historical.Try the index at FedStats, or The Library of Congress\u2019s Business\n Reference Services research center on science, technology\n and business. If you\u2019re interested in greening your IT shop, check out the\n energy statistics on the Energy Information Administration's\n website.And if you are searching for career or trend information,\n the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a wealth\n of it. Career Guide to Industries, and Overview of Statistics by Industry or\n Occupation are good places to check\n out.5. Research Trade Groups and Online Publications for\n Current Topics, Best PracticesTrade magazines and trade associations update you on current\n trends in professional thinking. They also are great for\n research in hot topics. (CIO.com fits into this category.)Associations are communities where people come together to\n share their ideas and problems. Cullen says that not only are\n associations and publications great resources for a business\n researcher, but their trade shows are often invaluable as well.\n If you are unable to attend, check out the show\u2019s website\n for the topics that are being discussed to stay abreast of\n what\u2019s on people\u2019s minds. Ideally, the site will\n have downloadable material you can browse.Try groups like the Business Technology Association. An\n example of a more narrowly focused group is the 1394 Trade Association, composed of\n companies and executives who are interested in supporting an\n IEEE standard for consumer electronics systems. Such groups\n can help your own research agenda.To find others, go to the Business.com search site and select the\n industry you are interested in and then click on\n associations. You can also search at the Union of International Associations and\n the American Society of Association Executives\u2019 Gateway to Industry Associations.6. Visit the Library for More Research Sources and Online\n DataLibraries and professional services organizations are\n trained to help researchers. You should consider visiting the\n physical library, or at least the webpage for your local\n library or for the library at a top business school.It may sound archaic. But libraries, especially in larger\n urban areas, have access to subscription databases that contain\n a wealth of trustworthy information that you would be unlikely\n to find elsewhere (and unable to access without free use of the\n library\u2019s subscription).Popular research databases like OneSource, Hoover\u2019s, Standard & Poor\u2019s and Data Monitor are excellent business\n information hubs. Print news aggregators like Factiva and LexisNexis allow you to perform keyword\n searches on business publications such as The Wall Street Journal,\n Fortune and Harvard Business Review\u2014three great publications for current\n business information.If you\u2019re overwhelmed, enlist the help of a real live\n librarian. If you\u2019re short on time, visit Digital Librarian, a directory of online\n resources that are organized by topic. Virtual Library is a subject-specific\n catalog that is maintained by experts in each respective\n field.While these sites are useful, nothing can replace a\n face-to-face interaction, says West. \u201cWebsites that\n organize information have very little in common with what you\n get when you talk to a real librarian.\u201d She says,\n \u201cThey're both useful but I would never say, "If you don't\n have time to see a real librarian, go to a website and look\n through links." I'd tell you to visit one of the 24\/7 reference\n sites where you can talk live to a real librarian.\u201dIf you have the budget or need help preparing a report or\n presentation, consider enlisting the services of professional\n researchers, says Cullen.If you are researching to improve your career, or you are\n interested in long-term tracking of particular business or\n technology topics, you should set aside time to research\n online. But you have to be strategic about your research\n approach or you can get overwhelmed, says Cullen. Generally,\n \u201cit\u2019s good to take an interest in research as part\n of your job,\u201d she says, \u201cbecause your competitors\n are doing it, so you too should keep as up to date as possible\n with public knowledge and opinion.\u201dMargaret Locher is a freelance writer who has a\n master\u2019s degree in library science.