Terms for Better Searching

Many people find the technology of the Internet confusing. Some may in fact be surprised to discover that the Internet and the Web are not the same thing. This chart provides definitions of terms helpful to those who use the Web to find information.

Database: electronic storage medium consisting of multiple records and files. Each record contains fields that hold specific data; e.g., an author field will contain the name of an author. A file contains a collection of records. This medium presents an orderly means of arranging data, making it possible, for example, to identify all data associated with a published work. Moreover, a relational database system ties together related information; e.g., two separate records contain information about two different articles written by the same author, or one social security number points to an individual who has lived at five different addresses. Database example: Contracts Library by the Contracting and Organizations Research Initiative. See also: Database as defined by the Lycos Tech Glossary.
Directory: an arrangement of information in an hierarchical fashion; e.g., A to Z, 1 to 10, etc. A telephone directory, for example, arranges telephone numbers by the name of a residential or business owner. A reverse telephone directory, on the other hand, arranges phone numbers numerically. Trainers often refer to the drill-down approach to arranging information that Web sites like Yahoo use as directories. Directory example: FindLaw's Legal Subjects. See also: Directory as defined by the Lycos Tech Glossary.
Internet: a global network connecting many diverse, public and private, computers and computer networks. Its decentralized design allows it to continue to function even when parts that comprise the whole go down. Protocol, known as TCP/IP, connects each computer or computer network and enables data transmission. Conceptually, the Internet refers to all types data transmitted via its infrastructure -- email, Web sites and pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, files available via file transfer protocol (ftp), instant messages, etc. See also: Internet as defined by the Lycos Tech Glossary.
Online Research System: a group of centrally controlled research databases accessed via modem or via the Internet. LexisNexis and Westlaw are two examples of online research systems.
Search Engine: a database containing an index of (mostly) text collected from Web pages. Search engines perform three basic functions. They locate and index Web pages, and then retrieve them based on the results of a query. Search engines face a Herculean task -- providing access to information that is constantly moving, changing and growing. Moreover, while a search engine's database may constitute an orderly storage medium, the Web pages it collects often defy logical arrangement. Perhaps the key difference between an online research system and a search engine is the lack of control the latter has over the information residing in its database. Search engine example: Google. See also: Search engine as defined by the Lycos Tech Glossary.
Web: a system that stores and retrieves hypertext over the Internet. Hypertext consists of various data types (text, graphics, sounds, videos, software, etc.) that can be linked together. Conceptually, the Web constitutes a part of the Internet. Not all computers that function as servers (dedicated to a particular task like storing Web sites) store Web pages. See also: World Wide Web as defined by the Lycos Tech Glossary.

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COPYRIGHT: 2001 Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP all rights reserved.

This chart appears in Teaching Internet Research Skills, a teaching Web of The Virtual Chase at URL https://www.virtualchase.com/researchskills/invisible_web2.html.