For day to day tasks AskJeeves is probably the best. It'll submit a natural language question on your behalf to about seven leading search engines. Take some time to learn how search engines work. AskJeeves returns the top ten or so hits from each one. You have to wait a few moments for this, and while its happening, locally authored content (by college students paid to surf) in response to frequently submitted questions starts to appear. The quality of this stuff is variable, but it's an interesting idea.
Another interesting idea is google: it returns keyword based searches ranked by link density, to give a measure of the importance of a site. This gets round some of the problems of purely keyword based searching, which has the potential for commercial distortions as companies employ search engine specialists whose sole role is to ensure that the pages their company writes are highly ranked in the search engine sites.
What AskJeeves or Google don't cover are the news groups, which are nicely archived at DejaNews. This is a lot better than eating a whole heap of raw email, though it's passive rather than interactive. When you find relevant stuff you can send email directly to the contributor. Make sure you understand netiquette. Generally people reply, often very quickly. It's great. In time you will be able to help others too.
If you know other details about an organisation that is likely to have info, picking up the phone to ask for a URL can save a lot of time. Try typing a URL into the location bar of your browser. URLs have a regular construction, so you can often guess them.
Updated 15 March 1999