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Specialized Digital Research Tools

Like many people, Google, Yahoo!, or Bing are the first places you start a search. Using one of these sites is ingrained into our day to day activities. While these sites are excellent starting points, they are not the only places from which to discover information. The internet has many deep sources of data and there are tools that can help you get there.

There are many other search tools that focus on niche industries or offer a different way to find and view information. For example, Wikipedia is the largest encyclopedia with more than 3.3 million English articles (plus +1 million German and +900,000 French articles). Wikipedia's site offers tools within the site to browse and cross discover information.

Other specialized sites are not so much search engines as organizational sites that provide you functions to automatically search and return specific information to you. An example of this is iCurrent.com. iCurrent is a personalized news aggregator, a service that focuses on searching trusted news sites. It also provides the ability for you to create a memorized search. For example, you could setup a search on 'Milk Prices' and iCurrent will create a channel with up to date articles relating to 'Milk Prices' .

Other sites organize and search niche focused information like research papers. DeepDyve is a site that aggregates millions of scientific papers and make them available to the researcher for a small fee. The value is that you do not have to go to multiple scientific journal sites to perform the same search.

Even more specialized are the search engines that focus on very narrow subjects. Pipl is focused on helping find people based information: personal profiles, public records and other people-related documents that are stored in databases that are not normally scanned by Google or Bing.

Finally, there is a new kind of search or analysis web based tool being developed called computational knowledge engines. Wolfram|Alpha is one such engine that not only scans websites and makes them easy to discover but it also adds computational tools. For example, using the term 'agriculture' returns several options like 'beef production Brazil vs Argentina' that displays charts, organized tables of comparison data, and further analysis options.

So, when you are about to start a new search, use Google but also use some of these other tools to bring you deeper level data and potentially information on which to make smart decisions.