Browsing the internet can be overwhelming. Imagine having the power to harness information from more than a billion websites at your fingertips! The staggering amount of information can be intimidating. If you’re new to online surfing, you can feel lost and confused.
With information moving more and more into the online platform, learning how to navigate the internet has become an essential skill. Just think, when was the last time you checked a printed newspaper to know details about the weather or check bus schedules? Sure, some still rely on TV or the radio for the news, but if you want information quickly, you search for it on the net. Knowing how to go online for information has become a necessity for all of us today. Whether you are a newbie or a fairly well-versed netizen, the following tips will help you surf the net safely, quickly and more efficiently:
Know the basic lingo
Do you know the following terms – browser, website, webpage, search engine, or URL? Learning basic terms and tools will help you follow instructions and navigate the internet better. To start off, read Lost in cyberspeak? Basic terms that you should know.
The most used search engine today is Google and it is for good reason. Google has the largest single catalogue of webpages plus, it is fast, reliable, and user-friendly. It also has Google Scholar search which is a great tool for looking up scientific and hard-research materials. Of course, you may use other search engines such as Bing, Dogpile, or Yahoo, and others if you need an option.
Another part of searching efficiently is knowing how to search in the first place. You save time significantly when you key in exact key words or phrases. But if your first attempt to search does not yield significant results, re-word or rephrase your search using synonyms. Try and think of the most common way people might look for the same thing or topic.
Other search tips:
- If you want to find the exact words on the webpage you are searching for, place the word or phrase in between quotation marks.
- Forgot the exact words? Use an asterisk within quotes. For example, if you’re trying to find a book and you forgot the exact title. You can search “How to win * and * people.”
- Looking for more than one item on a related topic? Use OR. Ex: Internet marketing OR advertising.
- If you want your searches not be seen by others who will use the computer, search using the Private or Incognito mode. Your browsing history will not be stored in the computer (but it can still be traced via a search engine server log if need be). On Google Chrome, click on the three dots on the upper right hand corner of the browser (usually in line with the address bar). Click on New incognito window (or Ctrl + Shift + N). In Internet Explorer, this option can be found in tools. You can also click on Ctrl + Shift + P (also works for Microsoft Edge and Firefox).
- Use “DEFINE:” to streamline the dictionary process. A box will appear at the top of your search that has the definition of the word, pronunciation (you can hear it too when you click on audio icon below the word), usage/tenses, word origin, translation to another language, and frequency of usage. Example search string: “DEFINE: mortgage”
For more advanced Google search tips, read How to search on Google: 31 Advanced Google Search tips, Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot.
Stay away from fake or fraudulent sites
Fake or fraudulent sites are dangerous because they contain false information. Some can also get you to disclose personal information which they can use to harm you or steal money from you. But how do you know which sites are real, good, reliable, or credible? There are several ways:
- Check the url – look at the address bar. If you are required to provide personal or financial information on a site, the address should show that it is a secure site. It should start with https not http. You will also see a padlock symbol on the right hand side of the address bar. If you’re clicking on a link to get to a webpage, make sure that the web address does not change when you reach the site. Be wary when the domain register changes, for example to .com, .net or .biz, when it was .edu or .ca in the original.
- Train your eyes – Does the page look well designed? Is it too crowded? Does it have a lot of ads, download buttons, or clickbait advertising? How about spelling, grammatical or typographical errors? Haphazard design and no editing/proofreading are sure signs that a website is unreliable or fake.
- Fake news? Stay away from websites that publish fake or simply bad articles. You can usually tell if an article is fake or inaccurate (or simply just a waste of time) just by reading the headline. If it has an outrageous claim or if it employs clickbait tactics (examples: Woman visits zoo. You won’t believe what happens next! or Girls won’t be able to resist you if you do this simple trick!), beware.
However, some articles or websites can be more sophisticated. If you’re not sure if what you’re reading is credible, dig deeper. Get information about the author or check the references at end of the article. Find out if the writer is an authority. Also, see if he or she has written articles in past that were credible. Another way to check credibility is the presence of a contact page where you can see the publisher’s information. Most legitimate news sites would have an About Us page that states its commitment to delivering facts and upholding journalistic integrity. If an item they publish is not factual, people can contact the publisher and hold them accountable. Still not sure? Check the poster below from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions to help you weed out fake news.
Found a site that you like and would probably go back to again and again? Bookmark it. This will help you go back to the site without having to search for it again. You will find this function on most browsers. Look at the top page menu, or the upper right-hand side of the browser.
Don’t share if you’re not sure
Did you come upon a fantastic offer? Read through an amazing claim? Or read late-breaking news that is hard to believe? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re not sure if something you read on the internet is factual, investigate and give it time before clicking share. Don’t be among those who spread lies and fake news among their peers. Some, especially those using social media, think that they are doing others a favour when they share such information. Being a discerning reader is the mark of a genuinely tech-savvy netizen. Remember, false information is dangerous and can cause real harm, so don’t spread it.
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