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Introductory guide to using the internet for theology
This guide is intended primarily to help students, who do not feel confident about using the internet, to get started.
It is not a resource guide. In other words, it will not provide you with lots of links to useful websites. Rather, it aims to give you a generic overview, and to introduce you to the different ways in which you can search the internet to access resources.
What is the internet?
The internet is essentially a vast number of electronic networks connecting to an even larger number of resources and websites. Because it is so big, it is often difficult to find exactly what you want. And because there is no overall management of the internet, it is also difficult knowing what you can trust when you find it.
How do I search the internet?
To search the internet, you need a piece of software called a browser. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is one example of a browser. Once you have opened your browser, there are basically three ways to search the internet:
- Type in the address of a known website
- Use a search engine
- Use an intermediary gateway
If you are searching for a specific website, and you know the address, you can go straight to it. For example, the web address of the Queen’s Foundation is www.queens.ac.uk. Your browser allows you to store an address, so you don’t have to type it out each time.
If you don’t know the address, or if you are searching for information rather than for a specific website, you will need help, either from a search engine or from an intermediary gateway.
All search engines offer advice on how to make best use of their functionality, as well as explaining how they ‘rank’ the results. Don’t be put off by the Advanced Search option!
There are some search tips which are common to most search engines, and it is worth being aware of these. For example, use inverted commas to search for a phrase e.g. “queen’s foundation”.
If you are looking for information on a subject of a fairly general nature, then a search engine such as Google will almost certainly give you too much. An intermediary gateway can help you in two ways:
- it provides some much-needed quality control, only selecting websites which have been checked and found to be of high quality
- it groups websites together under subject headings, enabling you to follow links from general headings to more specific ones to assist you in your search
There are many intermediary gateways, but here are some which are specifically aimed at assisting students of theology and religion:
The New Testament Gateway and the Wabash Center are hosted in the US. GlobeTheoLib is a World Council of Churches initiative.
It is also worth noting that Google has its own academic search engine, Google Scholar, to assist the academic community. This search engine searches only scholarly literature to identify relevant papers, theses, books and articles.
Better ways of searching the internet are constantly evolving as search engine hosts strive to keep up with the array of resources becoming available and the increasing demands of internet users. Under Useful Documents you will find some tips for searching.
The following book is available for loan from the Librarian’s Office:
Expert internet searching (4th ed.) / Phil Bradley
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