Students who need to find academic references, as well as individuals who wish to increase their knowledge, find Usenet to be beneficial. In addition to accessing past conversations, users can start their own discussions to acquire answers to their questions. Users can often obtain several different points-of-view from experts and academics. This level of in-depth research is almost non-existent through other channels.
One of the biggest advantages for students conducting research on Usenet is having access to the expertise of professionals and scholars. Usenet subscribers can obtain access to educational discussions. Within these, they will often find a much higher level of maturity than they would on most web forums. Users can ask questions, answer questions and request reference material from other users. Because academics and professionals frequent Usenet groups, users can expect to find interesting conversations and information about their pertinent topic.
The primary purpose of Usenet is to provide information within relevant newsgroups. These newsgroups are arranged hierarchically by topic and provide useful outlets for research. To access these newsgroups, users must download a newsreader and subscribe to a newsgroup provider.
Newsgroups each focus on their own unique and distinct topics. Unlike typical web forums that frequently allow a wide range of discussions, newsgroups tend to stay strictly on -topic. Moderators will remove topics or stop discussions that move too far off course. Users can filter newsgroups in their newsreader to pull up topics related to their research.
The Big 8
There are hundreds of thousands of newsgroups within Unsent, but finding a newsgroup that deals with a specific topic is not very difficult. The topics are arranged under general subjects that become more specific as they drill down.
Most newsgroups that users would need to access can be found under the hierarchies known as the Big 8. These include:
comp.* – topics dealing with computers
humanities.* – topics that fall under the humanities (such as art and music)
news.* – topics relating to newsgroups (not current events)
rec.* – topics under recreation and entertainment
sci.* – science-related topics
soc.* – social or cultural topics
talk.* – controversial topics
misc.* – topics that do not fall under the other subjects
A user who is researching the history of space travel would first look under the general hierarchy “sci,*” as this falls under the broad category of science. Within this broad topic, they then search for space, and then history. This would bring them to their specifically needed newsgroup: “sci.science.space.”
Posting on Usenet
Users who are researching a specific topic will have the option of posting their question within the appropriate newsgroup. Before doing so, they should visit the newsgroup’s FAQs section as it is possible that their question has already been asked and answered. If it has not, they can then post their question by starting a new discussion. Users should be very specific about what they are looking for. For example, if a user wants information on specific studies, they should specify the year, type of study and information from the study they are seeking. By being thorough in the initial question, a user will have a better response than they would if they leave their question too vague.
Once answers are posted to a user’s question, they should look for those that are answered by professionals or that have accompanying references. These references will provide additional information to go on as well as a means to fact check the information.