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Author: Julie L. Holcomb
Title: John A. Butler's CyberSearch: Research Techniques in the Electronic Age
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 1999

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Source: John A. Butler's CyberSearch: Research Techniques in the Electronic Age
Julie L. Holcomb

vol. 2, no. 1, April 1999
Article Type: Book Review
PDF: Download full PDF [11kb ]

CyberSearch: Research Techniques in the Electronic Age

Julie Holcomb

More and more professors are encouraging their students to use the Internet and other electronic resources for their research projects. Our university library, as well as the public library across the street, is a wealth of electronic resources. But frequently those electronic searches are unproductive and time consuming. It's no wonder that John Butler compares information gathering to gem mining: "lots of time spent, much of it on empty veins, before unearthing real treasure." With the right guide, however, time spent on those empty veins can be reduced. John Butler with his years of research experience is just that guide.

Butler examines the common myths about Internet access and then walks the reader through the technical details of Internet connections. He also provides general suggestions for identifying individual hardware and software needs. Beyond these basics, however, Butler devotes most of a chapter to OPAC (online public access catalog) searches. He explains how to locate OPACs and then how to browse and how to search by name, call number, and word. OPACs allow researchers to develop a bibliography on a topic without ever leaving their desk. Equally valuable is the in-depth chapter on Internet applications and their use. He covers the basics such as e-mail, newsgroups, listservs, telnet, ftp, browsers, and search engines. He concludes his chapter with important caveats about information found on the web.

However, Internet and electronic applications are not the only means of gathering information, as Butler points out. Researchers should not overlook the "human element" or available print resources. Butler gives a brief lesson on telephone and in-person interviewing techniques. Likewise, he spends time reviewing print resources such as Books in Print, Guide to Reference Books, and Facts on File. Equally important in any search is familiarity with the library. To that end, Butler provides tables for the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress methods of classifying books and provides a resource for learning more about the SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents) coding system used for federal government documents.

CyberSearch is an excellent starting point for any researcher, student or professional especially because Butler's focus is so comprehensive.

Review by Julie Holcomb, Pacific University.