Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Internet Research: Theory and Practice
Internet Research: Theory and Practice
Fielden, N.L. and Garrido, M.McFarland & Company, Inc.Jefferson, North Carolina,1998181 pp.ISBN 0-7864-0538-4$25Available: McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640. Tel: 336 246 4460; Fax: 336 246 5018.
The statement on the back of the book Internet Research: Theory and Practice that "this work is designed to make the Internet less forbidding and more comprehensive for researchers" is not totally valid. Perhaps it is the book's title with which this reviewer has difficulty. While the book is indeed a good theoretical introduction to research methodology in either the print or electronic environment, its practical application in the Internet environment is lacking. Bearing in mind that it is generally an exercise in futility to write an up-to-date book on the Internet, and this review is being written at least 18 months after its publication, nevertheless there are some glaring omissions.
The book is divided into five chapters with two appendices giving good information on writing the research paper and citation formats. Chapter 1 is a brief explanation on Internet addresses, domain naming, and URLs. It introduces terms such as TCP/IP, telnet and ftp without explanation other than to say they would be discussed in a later chapter. It would have been more appropriate to have incorporated this in the later Chapter 3 "Internet tools" and begun the book with Chapter 2 "The nature of research".
The authors discuss the time-honoured research methods - definition of topic, identification of sources, location, evaluation, analysis and synthesis of information, and documentation of the research process - and give good advice no matter what the research medium. There is a good overview of the usefulness of the Internet as a research tool, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages and finally an excellent section on copyright and intellectual property, including advice on seeking permission to reproduce copyright material.
Chapter 3 "Internet tools", gives the history of the Internet and the protocols and unfortunately, although accurate, suffers from being dated. Showing how to use telnet and a lengthy explanation for using UNIX-based ftp in a small book is no longer appropriate. There is a sound explanation of the usefulness to research of email and discussion groups, however the section on Web "finding tools" is slight. The reader is advised that specifics of Web searching will be given greater treatment in the next chapter. The problem is that it really is not. Chapter 4 "Information retrieval" gives a very good explanation of the fundamentals of searching in the electronic environment; Boolean searching, search statement refining techniques, and choice of database are all well covered. Although the major example of a search on "semiotics and language" was shown using the ERIC database the authors chose not to repeat the search using a general Web search engine. In fact there are no examples of Web-based searches in the half a dozen pages on searching on the Internet and this in a book titled Internet research. There is no mention of meta-indexes or the concept of subject gateways, both of which have been around for several years.
The final chapter "Internet subject resources" is divided into broad subject categories for example education, health and medicine, business and provides several URLs for each discipline. The reader is advised to use Yahoo or the WWW Virtual Library in most cases and then a few other Web addresses are given (all in the United States). A little spot checking in this section brought to light some omissions and inaccuracies. For example one of the major authoritative sources is Medline; this is noted but as a "proprietary database ... unavailable to the public", however no URL is given for Medline via the National Library of Medicine's PubMed which has been freely accessible for years. This chapter would have been more helpful if it included more strategies for searching for subject gateways or collections using services such as the Argus Clearinghouse or BUBL.
I found the book disappointing. It is evident that the authors have a background in searching traditional structured databases but unfortunately they have not effectively transferred this experience to the Web environment. In all Internet Research: Theory and Practice did not deliver on its title or stated aims.
Maureen HenningerUniversity of New South Wales