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Doing Research on the Web Directories

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What is a directory?

A directory, also known as a subject directory, refers to any collection of Web sites organized into such categories as health, history, sports, arts and entertainment, and travel. (Each directory has its own unique categories and links.) Search engines, including Yahoo! and Google, include directories as one search option. Library Web sites also typically have directory listings.

Below is one example of a directory. Notice the different categories that KidsClick! offers.

KidsClick! screenshot

How does a directory work?

Most directories have a hierarchical organization, meaning that the categories are initially arranged by general topics, which then become more specific as you "drill down" into the various subcategories. Example: If you are using a directory and looking for information on the Cold War, you might first look at how that directory groups its Web sites. Chances are, you'd want to look for a History subcategory. Within History, you might find such groupings as U.S. History, World History, and Ancient World History. You'd continue down this path until you found Web sites that focus on the Cold War.

What are the key differences between search engines and directories?

Search engines recognize the keywords you submit and will list hundreds of thousands of unordered results. Unfortunately, as good and quick as the search engine technology is, it can't recommend which sites to visit and which to avoid. A search engine does not discriminate.

A directory, however, does. A directory is someone's attempt to find the best sites on the Web for a range of given topics. The person, business, organization, or institution responsible for creating that directory has already weeded out the bad sites and found the most useful.

A directory can be a great place to start your research. In a relatively short amount of time, you can get a good sense of what's available on your research topic. However, you should keep in mind the following tips for using directories:

  • Always know who created the directory. Is it part of a library, university, or government Web site? Or was it created by a person who wanted to list his or her favorite links? Remember—a directory is only as good and reliable as the source that created it.

  • Even if you know the directory to provide reliable sites, you shouldn't rely solely on that directory for your research. By taking your search to other directories and search engines, you might uncover some wonderful, quality sites that the first directory did not list.

Try These Out!

The Internet Public Library
WWW Virtual Library
Kids Click!
Google Directory

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