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Internet newbies and netvets alike sometimes find themselves researching in circles--visiting and revisiting sites which they have already searched, posting the same query to the same newsgroups and query pages, repeatedly searching databases again and again for the same individuals. What a waste of time!

You wouldn't conduct your off-line research in such a haphazard manner, right? So why should online researchers work with as if they had no goal and no research plan? Just as off-line search strategies are important for productive research, so are online strategies--if not more so, given the tangled nature of the Internet. Considering the new web sites popping up every day, the sites that move or disappear, and the new information being added to existing sites, it's as important to keep a road map of where you've been online and what results you've found as where you plan to search next.

Recently at a genealogy conference for which I was lecturing, a woman approached me and asked where she should start researching on the Internet. She told me that she had been online for over a year, and was overwhelmed by the resources available and wanted a step-by-step outline of sites she should visit.

Unfortunately, life isn't that easy! There is no such outline available since everyone is researching different surnames, locations, and subjects. However, you can easily adapt your off-line research plan to include online resources. You can create an online source checklist similar to the off-line version, keep a detailed resource summary (or log) of sites you've visited and searched, and even print a copy of your bookmark (favorites) list to serve as a hard-copy guide to useful sites.

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