Making the Most of the Google Directory

You may be wondering when it makes sense to use the Google Directory as opposed to the broader Google Web search. One great use for the Google Directory is to familiarize yourself with the landscape of a particular subject matter when you don't know much about a topic. For example, suppose you need to conduct a reference interview. Suppose you don't have much background understanding of the topic to be covered in the reference interview.

In this situation, Google Directory provides a structure so you can conceptualize how the field of knowledge works. For example, the subcategories under the Business Law category reveal pretty quickly the kinds of professionals who work in business law, as well as the major issues and areas these professionals deal with every day (such as administrative business law, antitrust suits, and so on).

In addition, the Web sites listed in the various Business Law categories have been vetted by editors following Open Directory Policy (ODP) guidelines; you don't have to wade through all kinds of irrelevant commercial sites because someone else already has. For example, www.businesslaw.gov is the top-ranked site in the Business Law category. In part maintained by the Small Business Administration, this site is an authoritative provider of legal and regulatory information to America's small businesses. Using Google's Web search, this site is likely to be buried beneath an avalanche of commercial sites with less research value (you can find it, but not on the first page of a typical Google Web search).

Besides the ability to quickly and authoritatively familiarize yourself with an area, Google Directory helps you:

  • Narrow searches to categories and subcategories.
  • Get suggestions for keywords and queries. For example, if you're interested in researching traffic patterns, the Google Directory Business --> Transportation and Logistics --> Traffic Control category provides tons of ideas for search terms (via related categories, subcategories, and Web sites included in the category).
  • Find new search directions. If a site is listed under multiple categories, a different category from the one you browsed to find the site may prove a fruitful area for research.
  • Find comprehensive lists. For example, Arts --> Literature --> Authors contains a list that includes thousands of authors alphabetized by their last name.

In addition, you can use the Google Directory to

  • Refine your research methodology: Ask yourself, "Does the way I'm conceptualizing my topic correspond to the organization in the Google Directory?" If not, maybe you can use the organization implied by the Google Directory to improve your process.
  • Understand research deliverables: Suppose you're researching traffic patterns in a specific area for a client. If you look in the Business --> Transportation Logistics --> Traffic Control category, you can find many examples of traffic circulation reports (and get a better example of what they should look like).
  • Validate your research results: As you start to come up with research results, ask yourself two questions:

• What category in the Google Directory hierarchy does this fit in?

• Are the results consistent with other information available in that category?

    If you have trouble identifying a category, or answer "No" to the question about consistency, you should double-check your research conclusion to make sure that it is right.
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