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Related resources:
Consumer Information, Electronic Sources and Resources
Consumer Health Information, Electronic Sources and Resources
Consumer Information: Internet Scams, Electronic Sources and Resources

Search Approaches

In practical terms, every site on the net has an agenda of some kind, or it would not be there. Some sites are there to empower consumers, some sites are there to persuade and sell legitimate products and services to consumers, some sites are there to defraud, to hoax and to scam consumers. Yet, the internet presents a vast and tempting pool of information directed toward consumers. Many willingly utilize it as a tool in their quest for options and choices for everything from alternative medical treatments to new toasters, from complaining about last night's telemarketing call that interrupted dinner to exploring a potential investment opportunity.

Any satisfactory and successful search approach to the net depends upon the thing sought. Are we looking for a consumer product, a consumer service, or consumer information?

Second, we need to consider the goals and objectives of the search. Sometimes the main point of a search is curiousity or learning -- research for research's sake. Sometimes we are retrieving information for analysis and action: to influence a personal decision for oneself, a family member, a friend or acquaintance; to influence a professional decision for oneself, colleagues, clients; or to check out the competition. The objective may be: to become informed; to become empowered; to shop, acquire, or purchase; or to complain effectively to the right person, agency, or entity.

Third, one needs to consider the output required and/or desired. Are we seeking personal opinions from discussion fora, newsgroups and blogs? Are we seeking news media accounts and press releases? Do we want supported studies, working papers, and research articles? Will we be happy with nothing less than the raw data?

Fourth, we need to consider the quality and nature of our sources and resources. Are they characterized by: accuracy; currency (as related to accuracy); and completeness? Are they factual, providing, for instance, the history of the product / service, price, warranty, features? Are they speculative? ... politically correct? .. overwhelmingly agenda driven?

The decisions made as we proceed depend heavily on our previous experience, knowledge and expectations, the opinions and experiences of others whom we trust, and the amount of time we will devote to the process. They are further influenced by population and individual characteristics such as: gender, age, marital status; family size and composition; ethnicity, race, culture; occupation, levels of education, income; religious, political, environmental beliefs; lifestyle choices; and geographic parameters of either or both the consumer and the object).

Searches for consumer information may revolve around particular themes with in a broad category. In relation to health, for instance, the search might include:


diseases and conditions
safety: personal; food / water safety (biotechnology, radiation, quality); environmental (home, office and the great outdoors); toxins, pollutants
health promotion, education
particular products
equipment: fitness, exercise medical devices: pace makers, chips, implants, drugs
particular services
or information needs
retirement options
application processes for benefits

Our searches may take a hierarchical approach from broad to narrow, or broader to narrower

vehicles/ trucks
trucks / domestic
domestic / company
company / model
model / size (of bed, engine, torque, stereo system, etc.)
or we might start with a known, specific item (for instance, Dodge, RAM, SRT-10) and proceed from the narrow to the broad.

As with any type of internet search, we have to look where the information is likely to be, not simply where it is convenient to search. For some suggestions, see:

Consumer Information, Electronic Sources and Resources
Consumer Health Information, Electronic Sources and Resources
Consumer Information: Internet Scams, Electronic Sources and Resources
and remember: don't check your brain at the door!

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This page created and maintained by Linda Hansen.
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Created: 2005/05/25 Last updated: 2010/08/19
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