Business people, students, authors, and others who write long documents regularly mine the Internet for information needed to prepare text.
They often save hours of time and effort by using a trick to solve an information-transfer problem that goes hand in hand with the Web:
How can I move blocks of information from a Web site to the document I'm preparing with a word processing program?
Many people use the horse-and-buggy approach. They print out a pile of Web pages, underline or highlight useful information, and keyboard selected content into the document.
Transferring information directly from a Web page into a word processor document can eliminate those intermediate steps and speed a project's completion.
For a quick lesson in doing it like the professionals, open a new document with your word processing program, name it “resources,” save it, and minimize the program.
Like many programs, the upper right hand corner of the word processing screen displays three small squares. A click on the “X” closes the program. A click on the “-” converts or “minimizes” the program into an icon.
Minimizing reduces the current screen into a small picture in the Windows Task Bar, which runs along one side of your monitor. You can restore a minimized program by mouse clicking on its icon.
Minimizing clears the screen for “multi-tasking” - doing more than one computer task at a time. In this case, multi-tasking will involve two tasks - word processing and searching the Internet.
Start the next task by running America Online, Internet Explorer, or whatever program you use to access the Internet.
Once you're on the Internet, go to your favorite search site. It may be www.yahoo.com, www.google.com, www.dogpile.com, or dozens of other search sites.
If multi-tasking is new to you, take a minute and get a feel for the procedure. Minimize your Internet program. Then maximize, or restore, the word processing screen by clicking on its icon in the Task Bar. Practice switching back and forth between the two programs.
Next, maximize your Internet program and search for a topic - George Washington, for instance. Go to any of the sites in the results list, and find a page of text. Imagine that one paragraph has facts needed for your report.
To move the information directly into your word processing document, mouse click at the start of a paragraph, hold the button down, and drag to highlight the paragraph. Now right click in the highlighted area, and choose “copy” from the onscreen menu.
Minimize the Internet program, maximize the word processing program by clicking on its icon in the Task Bar. Left click at the point in the document where you want to paste the material. Then right click, and select “paste.”
Next, minimize the word processor, go to another Web site, find other useful information. Copy and paste in the same way. Continue shifting back and forth at as many Web sites as needed for the Internet part of the research. &tab;
After each copy and paste operation, keyboard the source of the information so you can give proper credit in footnotes or references.
Students should be aware of how their school defines plagiarism. Avoid it just as carefully when using Web content in a school report as when using books, magazines, or newspapers. The Internet makes it easy to identify content used without proper credit.
Michael Woods is the Blade's science editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.