Searching the Deep Web

A recent issue of American Libraries featured an article called "Going Beyond Google Again," a sequel to an earlier article exploring the uses of alternatives to general-purpose search engines (e.g., Google and Bing). The more recent article gives urls and descriptions of various free online databases that give you more focused search results than you would get from simply typing keywords into the open maw of Google.

One of the databases profiled, Voice of the Shuttle, is a collection of online resources for literature, the humanities and cultural studies hosted at UC-Santa Barbara. It's got an impressive collection of links to resources on a variety of topics (literature, art, history of the book, gender studies, postindustrial business theory, music).  However, when performing a database search on VoS, the results can be very hit or miss. I went to sections of VoS devoted to subjects I know something about, and did some keyword searches. For example, my first search in literature was for the critically acclaimed and still popular author Carson McCullers. No results. On the other hand, when I did a search for the eminently forgettable poet Allen Tate, I got a link to a brief essay by Tate. When I searched in art history, I got lots of hits for Edvard Munch (painter of The Scream) but nothing for Gustav Klimt (painter of The Kiss). In sum, Voice of the Shuttle looks like a good place to start research on a topic, but you should definitely check other sources (online and print) as well.

Another database described in this article was BizNar, a business research database created by Deep Web technologies.  I did a search for "cookies" (just because) and got hits for (among many other things) dessert blogs, a CNN report on the black market for cookies in Hong Kong (yes, really), a pay-to-view analysis of the world market for cookies, and a bid from the Bureau of Prisons stating that the penitentiary in Marion, IL is looking to purchase 10,000 cookies, 25,532 bagels and/or muffins and/or cinnamon rolls, and 64,440 shelf-stable flour tortillas. There were also (of course) lots of articles on the virtual cookies that marketing companies leave on your computer. If you want to do business research, and you're a naturally curious person, BizNar seems worth a try. I'll give more databases a test drive later. Stay tuned....

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