Unit 6 Newsgroups

A newsgroup is a discussion group. People on computers all over the Internet connect to each other to ask questions and discuss specific topics. Anyone is allowed to participate. Some newsgroups have completely free and open discussions and some are moderated by a person who reviews and posts the articles for discussion. Newsgroup discussions may continue over weeks. One does not have to be on line every minute.

A chatgroup is a real-time conversation between anyone who is on line at the same time. People come and go and the topics tend to be social rather than academic.

Newsgroups and chat groups are different from E-mail in that newsgroup and chatgroup postings are sent to one central newsserver, which sends them out to thousands of other servers for anyone to read and discuss. E-mail is sent from one person to another, just like a letter.

Newsgroups can be useful for research. If you find a group related to your research topic, you can post questions and get answers. Posting a question to a group may result in a lot of new information.

There are newsgroups related to almost any imaginable topic. Newsgroups' names indicate the topic. For example, biology groups include BIO and computer groups include COM in their names.


Usenet is a network of newservers and newsgroups. It is the largest discussion forum on the Internet.

Learning About Usenet: DejaNews

DejaNews is a Usenet browser, directory, search engine and archiving service. You can use DejaNews to learn about and find interesting newsgroups on Usenet.

1. Print out this exercise or your teacher will give you a copy.

2. Type the DejaNews URL in the location box of your homepage:


Finding Interesting Newsgroups

DejaNews provides two basic ways to find interesting Newsgroups, the browser and keyword searches. We will try both.

Learning to Use the Browser

1. At the DejaNews web site look on the left side to find New to Usenet? Click Learn the basics. Then under the Usenet short course, click number 1. What is Usenet ? and read it. Scroll down as you read.

2. Near the bottom, click Discussion Help Index and click on the choices under The Basics to learn about Deja discussions.

3. Click BACK to the DejaNews Discussions, Browse Discussions page. Read about the topics that the different discussions include. These groups are organized in a hierarchy , just as the information in directories like Yahoo! are organized.

4. Click rec (recreation).

You will see five columns of information:

Name / # of Msgs / Browse / Add to My Deja / Post /

Name = the large group designation in the hierarchy.

# of Msgs = the number of messages sent to that large group.

Browse = Look at the matches, which are subgroups of the large group designations.

Add to My Deja = a personalized list of groups you can make.

Post = write a message to a discussion group.

5. Scroll down to find rec.pets. Notice all the groups that you could join!

6. When you get to rec.pets, click it. These are different messages. Click on one. The screen will change and you will see some messages (Msg 1, Msg 2, etc.) Click one to read it.

7. You will see the subject, date, author, and the message in the middle of the screen. On the top and bottom of the message, you'll see post reply and previous in thread or next in thread.

8. Click previous or next in thread to read what other people have written about the thread (topic).

9. While you are looking at some of the messages, click on post reply and read about what you have to do to post a message.

Reading Articles in Your Newsgroup

Now we are going to find a newsgroup of your own choice.

1. Click BACK to the Browse Discussion Groups page. Find the name(s) of groups that might interest you. Write their names here: Example: biz


2. Choose a group and read some messages. You will need to find topics with several messages. If there are not many messages, choose a different topic or a different group. What dates do you see on the messages?

3. Spend some time reading the messages in your newsgroup. What are some of the topics?


4. Spend some time reading the previous in thread and next in thread messages. Can you understand what the discussion is about?


5. At the very top of one of the message pages in the word Thread. Click it. What are some of the author names in the Thread list. Who are they?



The Archiving System

DejaNews provides a wonderful archiving service. When you are reading an article and click Thread, you will get a record of all the other articles (messages) that have been posted on that topic. It's important for you to know the background of any discussion so that you will be able to participate intelligently.

6. Now click the author of one of the messages. What do you get? Who wrote all the articles (messages) in this list? Why would this be useful to you?

The Author Profiles

When you find a message or discussion that interests you, how do you find out about the people who are writing the messages? You can click the author's name in a posting. You get his/her e-mail address and a place to click to find the other articles the author has posted. This is helpful because you can read the other articles to learn whether or not the author is someone who has some knowledge of the subject.

Learning to Use Keyword Searches to find Newsgroups

1. Scroll to Search Discussions at the bottom of the posting history page you are on.

2. Type in the name of your country and click search. You will see a list of subjects and forums (newgroups),

3. How many forums are listed? (see the matches). Are there too many to read easily?

4. Click Power Search and type in the name of your country with other key words. Use boolean operators like AND, OR, NOT, quotation marks, or parentheses.

5. What are your results? Look at the forums listed. Which ones are they? If you are interested, read some messages, and keep a note of the forum name for the future. If you are not interested, use different key words until you find something you want to read.

Your Newsgroup Project

You may use a DejaNews keyword search or the DejaNews browser for this project.

1. Choose a topic among your own interests and find a newsgroup (forum) that you might really join. Read some of the messages and follow some of the discussion.

2. Select a topic in that newsgroup to follow for a week or two. Read all the previous discussion that you can find by clicking Thread. You should plan to check the new messages related to that topic every day for the next week or two.

3. As you become familiar with the topic of discussion, you may feel comfortable about posting a question or a comment yourself.

4. If you want to post a message, click Post Reply, read the instructions, and join the newsgroup!

Questions about Your Newsgroup

1. What newsgroup(s) did you choose?

2. What topic(s) did you follow?

3. Describe the main ideas in the discussion or questions and answers.

4. Did you want to participate? Did you post a comment? If so, what did you say?

If not, why?

A Word of Warning

Newsgroups and e-mail are the most active ways to find answers and discuss ideas. The Internet directories and search engines are more passive. All of the Internet research tools can be useful to the researcher.

However, you need to be aware that you must be the judge of the quality of your results. Anyone in the world can answer your newsgroup question, a famous scientist or a 10-year-old child. Anyone in the world can put a convincing web page on the World Wide Web. The information you receive may or may not be true. One of the best ways to find reputable newsgroups and web pages is through your professional organizations' web pages.

Library research materials on the other hand, while they can result in misleading or untruthful information, are more likely to have been reviewed and published by reputable authorities and publishers. For this reason, most professors will require you to use more library materials than Internet materials in your research papers.

The following list of web sites will help you evaluate the information that you find:

World Wide Web Evaluation Sites

Evaluating Websites


Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources (UCLA)


Evaluating Information on the Internet http://www.workathomenoscams.com/evaluate-information-on-internet/

Evaluate your newsgroup. Could it be useful in you future research? Explain.

Write in the space provided on the next page. Then send me your ideas. Click Here

Helen H. Schmidt
Instructor, Intensive English and Orientation Program
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, U.S.A.

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