This assignment is due by the beginning of your discussion section on Wednesday, October 15, but on October 8 you will need to choose a subject during your lab section and on October 10 you will need to show your TA an intermediate stage of your work. Computing tasks always take longer than you think they will because unexpected problems and misunderstandings inevitably come up. Even if you have experience with the tools already, you won't be able to leave this until the day before it's due.

Summary: For this assignment, you will use the Web to gather information about a person (chosen from our list); using this information you will create a Web page that gives a biographical sketch of the person.

Part I

Choosing your subject: First, you must choose your subject--the person about whom you will gather information and create a web page. You can't choose just anyone; you must select a name from the list we will distribute in class.

Your task will be to produce a web page containing a short biographical sketch of this person. Your sketch should contain the basic details of the person's life--e.g., birthdate, birthplace, family, background--together with some description of the person's major accomplishments. This does not have to be lengthy; a single page of text will be plenty, not counting lists or quotations or illustrations.

You may never have heard of the person you pick; that's fine. There is information on the Web for each of them, so this is an opportunity to learn something (and someone) new (which is what research is all about in the first place). In your lab section on Wednesday, October 8, your TA will have a sign-up sheet for selecting your person.

Gathering information: Next, you must gather information about your person. If possible, gather all of your information from the Web. You're not prohibited from using other sources, but using the Web is the point of the assignment.

As you gather your information, keep a search log describing which index and search services you visited, what search queries you used, and what results they produced. (Of course this should be a computer-based document, Word or plain text. You will copy and paste URLs and queries from your web browser into this document to save yourself from unpleasant transcribing.) For each different search (and you should do at least four), your search log should answer these questions:
-- Which search service are you using? (Give its URL.)
-- Which options of the service have you selected? (In Altavista, for example, you may choose simple or advanced search; other services have other choices.)
-- What was your query?
-- How many "hits" did your query generate (i.e., how many matching documents were retrieved)?
-- Does the service attempt to list the best hits first? (There should be a "Help" or "Tips" link that answers this.) How does the service define "best"?
-- How many of the "hits" looked promising enough to check out? Were there any humorously or outrageously inappropriate hits appearing early in the list?
-- What did you find at the sites you checked out? (Give the URL and a few words describing each useful site and the information you found there that you plan to use on your web page.)
-- How might you change your query (or selected options) next time to produce better results?

After you have found enough information, conclude your search log with a paragraph giving your evaluation of which search service was the most helpful and effective.

For each major fact on your web page that isn't common knowledge, you will need to specify where you found it. Your search log will contain this information. Provide those sources as links in the text of your web page; it is your choice whether you interleave your sources in your text or gather them into an annotated source list at the end.

As you do your research, note that your web page must include at least two images, one of which is a picture of the person. You must also include at least four hyperlinks to other information about the person. (For example, a page about Bill Clinton might include links to the White House, a list of Rhodes Scholars, a list of governors of Arkansas, and a page describing impeachment.) Add this list of links to the end of your search log.

Also consider these hints and tips:
-- To copy an image from the Web, just right-click on it and choose "Save Image As".
-- Try to avoid copying text or images that are copyrighted.
-- Choose images that have high contrast, or they won't show up when you print them on the grey-scale printers in the lab.

In lab on Friday, October 10, show your TA your search log, the list of links you will use on your web page, and the image(s) you will use. You will also submit these items through Checkmate.

Part II

Creating your web page: The first step in any kind of writing, for the Web or not, is to decide what you want to say. Write your text, using paper or some word processor, and decide how and where you want to include your images, your sources, and any lists, quotations, or other features. Take the time to produce clear and correct academic prose.

You will turn this text into a web page in two steps, using two different tools: You will start by using a plain text editor (called Notepad) to write HTML manually; you will finish with a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, Netscape Composer.

Editing HTML manually: For a web browser like Navigator or Explorer to display a web page, that page must be described in a language called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). HTML includes the plain text that appears on the page, along with "tags" or commands that specify how to display the text, where to put images, and where links link to. An appendix to our text gives a reference to some common HTML tags.

To start your page, open Notepad (from the Start menu, choose Programs, then Accessories). Then type in the basic HTML template shown on the next page, along with one test sentence you can remove later:


<!-- This is a comment, readable in the source but ignored by the browser >



       David G. Kay's Page on Charles and Ray Eames




     This is a test sentence.



Now save the file, naming it yourname.html--substitute your own name, of course, and don't forget the .html suffix.

Next, open Netscape Communicator (Navigator), click File, then Open Page, and choose your file. Does it look the way you expected it to?

You will repeat this cycle, a very common one in all kinds of software development: Add some more text and tags to your file using Notepad, then Save. Switch to Navigator, click Reload/Refresh (because Navigator doesn't automatically know about your saved changes), and verify that your page looks as you intend. Keep making small changes, then checking your work; if you make too many changes before checking and the check reveals something wrong, finding the problem becomes much harder.

When you have finished entering about half of your page, save your work and submit it via Checkmate. Print out the HTML source from Notepad; save a separate copy of that file for backup purposes; then load your half-done page into Navigator and print the interpreted version of the page from there. Now you are ready to go on to the second tool.

Using Netscape Composer as a WYSIWYG editor: Open Netscape Composer, and then open the HTML file you have been working on. Composer will display the file in (almost) the same way a browser will, but it will let you edit the file directly in this view!

Continue editing your page until it is done, saving and checking periodically in Navigator (which should not look much different). Make sure you have all the required elements: images, references, hyperlinks.

When you are done, print two versions of the page from Navigator: the HTML source (using the View Source menu item) and the interpreted (finished) page. Save the final HTML source and submit it via Checkmate. Also submit the final set of images your page uses.

With WYSIWYG tools available, why would anyone bother writing raw HTML? There might be two reasons: The WYSIWYG tools don't always provide all the features of HTML, and hand-coding the HTML allows the designer more precise control over the page's ultimate appearance.

Also consider these hints and tips for building your web page:
-- Keep all your files, including images, in the same folder; otherwise they may not show up when viewed with a browser.
-- You can see the HTML source of any web page by using the "View Source" menu item. Often the source is impenetrably complex, but not always; see, for example, the instructor's home page (
-- The more elaborate your web page, the likelier there are to be differences in how it appears in different browsers. Even though the Web is supposed to be a standard, universal medium, you will find that Navigator and Explorer don't show the same HTML precisely the same way, nor do browsers on Macintosh or Unix systems. You need not achieve a uniform look for this assignment, but trying to achieve uniformity gives real headaches to professional web designers.

Open your web page using Explorer, print the page, and circle on the printout any differences between that version and the Navigator version. Show these differences to your TA in lab on the due date.

Your grade will depend on how thoroughly you provide all the information we specify (including sources for that information), various lab activities (signing up, showing your TA your search log, and showing your TA the differences between Navigator and Explorer), and the correctness and clarity of your web page's presentation (including clear and correct English prose).

Written by David G. Kay and Hung Tran, 1995 and 1996.

Substantially revised by Eamonn Keough and David G. Kay, Summer 1999, and revised Fall 1999, Fall 2000, Fall 2001, and Fall 2003

David G. Kay, 406B Computer Science
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3425 -- (949) 824-5072 -- Fax (949) 824-4056 -- Email

Saturday, September 27, 2003 -- 2:47 PM