CIRP Handbook


National Licensing and Certification Organization (NLCO)
Certified Internet ReSearch Professional (CIRP)
Candidate Handbook

Published by National Licensing and Certification Organization LLC (NLCO)
PO Box 232
Lititz, PA 17543 
Copyright © 2015 NLCO LLC
All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of NLCO LLC.  Published in electronic format in the United States of America. 
About This Handbook

This Handbook serves as the principal source of information for those applying to take the certified internet research exam.  Since every situation and every applicable rule cannot be cited in a document like this, other NLCO policies, practices, and instructions, may also apply.

This Handbook provides the information you will need about eligibility requirements; application procedures and fees; examination scheduling; examination content and scoring. You are advised to periodically check for any changes in NLCO policies, requirements, or forms that may be made after this Handbook is published. Although NLCO gives applicants and candidates as much advance notice as possible when policies and procedures change, it is always your responsibility to make sure that you are fully informed about the current requirements and policies. You should also consult our website to learn about any updates that may be introduced regarding eligibility, exam administrations, exam content or other policies.

The policies and procedures in this Handbook may be modified, amended, or cancelled by NLCO at any time, with or without notice. When policies are changed, you may be notified by e-mail, or by the issuance of a revised edition of this Handbook. This edition of the Handbook supersedes all prior policies or procedures as to the subjects addressed in it and all representations, oral or written. NLCO strongly recommends carefully reading and thoroughly understanding every topic in this Candidate Handbook.

Contacting Us

If you are unsure about an examination policy or procedure, contact NLCO at

About NLCO

National Licensing and Certification Organization LLC (NLCO) specializes in the development and administration of certification tests.  It was established in Delaware in 2014. 

Our mission is to:
  • Develop fair, valid and reliable certification exams to determine professional competence.
  • Provide education, services and guidance to certification candidates that helps them succeed in accordance with industry and professional standards.                
  • Improve the standards of the industries that we serve through cooperation with entities that share this objective, including other accrediting agencies, governmental bodies, and groups whose areas of interest may coincide with those of NLCO.
  • Provide a forum for the exchange of information, ideas and experience.
 The Nature of Internet Research

The internet research certification exam recognizes and is built upon the premise that “internet research” can take many faces and lead down innumerable avenues (and alleys).

The design of the exam recognizes that successful “research” (research in general, as well as in regard to internet-specific research) requires a variety of skills and knowledge.  Skills include critical thinking, creativity, and imagination, as well as a good command of language, the ability to analyze questions and situations, organize one’s own thoughts, etc.  What knowledge  is required depends upon the field of research.  A successful researcher’s knowledge-base must, though, include a substantial knowledge of what research resources are available and how to access and use those resources.  In internet research specifically, necessary skills and knowledge involve an understanding of the nature of the internet itself, an understanding of the nature, features, and applications of search engines and other tools, and an understanding of the variety and nature of content found on the Internet.  

Samuel Johnson, the eminent 18th century writer and lexicographer said, “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it” (Boswell's Life of Johnson).  That dictum has long been highly regarded, but in the internet age, it has been given increased meaning.  Both kinds of knowledge are critical both in everyday life and in research.  For a researcher, no one can know all they wish to know.  With the internet,  if one knows what information is needed, and if that information actually exists, in an very large proportion of cases, the information can be identified by means of search engines and other tools, and can often be accessed immediately.

Some large but immeasurable percentage of the information most of us need on a daily basis can very easily gathered by a quick search engine search, usually by “throwing” a few words into a search engine’s search box.  For research, though, the 1% or 2 % or 5% (or whatever percent) of answers that require greater search skills may be the most important answers.  For serious research, just finding 95% of the information on a given topic may not suffice and the information that was missed may result in disaster.  At the same time, the ability to find exactly the right answer in 2 minutes rather than 20 minutes can likewise make a gigantic difference.  The skills and knowledge of a skilled and experienced internet researcher is what may make the difference between success and failure of a project.

Beyond knowing how to use search engines, there are other things that an internet researcher needs to know.  They need to know the variety of other, specialized, search tools available such as those for being alerted to news events and for tracking changes in any website. The skilled internet researcher also needs to be aware of, and have an understanding of, the variety of information formats that are available, and when those formats, such as patents, technical reports, press releases, and so on have to be included in a search.  The skilled researcher also needs to know when to go beyond the “free” internet and take advantage of fee-based tools.  Every good searcher also needs to be aware of the quality of the information they are finding and delivering, knowing how to determine the most reliable sources, and make the best choices in delivering reliable, relevant, and valid information.

Skilled and knowledgeable internet searchers/researchers, themselves, are a valuable commodity.
Eligibility and Application Requirements
Any person is eligible to become certified as an Internet ReSearch Professional through NLCO.  There is no educational  requirement or requirement that the applicant have any specific type of experience or background.

The internet research certification exam is designed for Internet researchers who wish to demonstrate to potential employers, potential clients, or others that their skills and knowledge in using the Internet for research purposes are far superior to those of the ordinary Internet user.  It is intended that the exam also be a tool for employers who wish to determine the relative internet research skills of applicants applying for research-related positions.

In designing the exam, it is recognized that an internet researcher may come from almost any field and from an extremely wide range of occupations.  An Internet researcher might be an intelligence analyst, business analyst, librarian, information broker, private investigator, attorney, or, in fact, almost anyone who is called upon to provide reliable, relevant, and valid answers to questions for which the answers, or information contributing to the answers, might be found on the Internet.

To become eligible to be certified as an internet research specialist and be authorized by NLCO to present and use the Certified Internet ReSearch Professional (CIRP) credential, the following steps must be completed:
  1. An application must be completed and submitted on the NLCO website.
  2. All applicable fees must be paid.
  3. Once the application and fees have been submitted and approved by NLCO, the applicant will be authorized to take NLCO’s certification exam.
  4. After the applicant takes the exam, a notice will be provided to the applicant with the exam results. 
 Your submission of your application electronically means that you understand and agree to certain conditions as part of your application. Specifically:
  1. You acknowledge and agree to abide by all applicable NLCO policies and procedures, including the consequences of noncompliance. 
  2. The information entered on or in connection with your application is accurate and correct to the best of your knowledge. If the information is not true or accurate, your application may be denied. 
  3. You authorize NLCO to obtain additional information about your qualifications and application for testing.
 About the Exam
The exam includes 200 questions, approximately 70% of those are multiple choice and 30%  are “fill-in-the-blanks”.  About two-thirds of the questions draw upon the test-taker’s reasoning ability and/or current knowledge, the remainder are “live” questions that require the test-taker to find the answers on the internet.  Scenarios and contexts for the questions are based on a variety of professional fields and occupations.  None of the questions require in-depth knowledge of any specific field.  Some questions are very specific as to such things as search techniques.  Though it of course could happen, no test-taker is expected to know that answers to every question.

Every question in the test is applicable to or relates to a very possible real-life situation and/or question that some internet researcher might encounter in their professional life.
Every question helps to assess one or more skills or knowledge sets.  For example, a single question might require that the searcher be able to analyze the question in such a way as to recognize three essential concepts embedded in the question, identify which search tool is most appropriate for that question, and identify and know how to use a specific search technique available in that tool, such as a specific search prefix. 

The more familiarity a test-taker has with a broad range and variety of websites the better chance they have for a higher score.  No truly skilled internet researcher always starts out with a search engine.  They save important time by skipping that step and going directly to a website they know that is likely to contain the answer.

There are certain websites that any reasonably-skilled internet researcher will be familiar with to at least some degree.  For several questions, knowledge of one of those websites will enable the test-taker to quickly answer the question.  None of the questions require prior knowledge of “obscure” websites.

As with most well-planned exams, for multiple choice questions the objective is for you to choose the “best” answer, the answer that is most correct or true.  Built into may questions is an aspect of “critical thinking” 

For the overall test, two hours is allowed.  The design of the test, the nature of the questions on the test, and the timeframe,  provide a structure in which a skilled internet user will be able to clearly demonstrate their ability to effectively and efficiently use the internet for research purposes.
Outline of the Exam
Part I – General Background, Research Strategies and Techniques 
Part 2 – Searching Tools
Part 3 – Internet Content   
Part  4 – News Resources
Part  5 – Special Content - Images, Video, Maps, Journals, Books,, Filetypes,  etc.
Part 6 – People Search / Research
Part 7 –  Social and Professional Networking
Preparing for the Exam
In preparing to take the exam, test-takers should make sure that they know the major general web search engines, especially Google, and the features and kinds of  content they provide. It will be very worthwhile to review the “help” pages provided by those tools.
It will be useful to be familiar with as many popular websites (which have research value) as you can.  Most of those websites have “search” capabilities and we recommend that you familiarize yourself with those features. 
Depending upon your current level of knowledge, you may want to read some of the many books, journals, newsletter, and blogs that focus on web searching and internet resources. 
Many internet researchers also expand or refresh their skills and knowledge by attending conferences that focus on using the internet for research, such as “WebSearch University”, Internet Librarian, and Internet Librarian International.
We also recommend that you consider taking the practice exam offered by for this certification. (Available in June 2014)
Taking the Test
When taking the test keep in mind that both speed and accuracy (i.e., giving the right answers) are factors in achieving a high score.  About 60% of the questions are ones for which it is intended that test-takers should be able to answer those questions based on the test-taker’s current knowledge and reasoning (v.s. using the internet live to get the answer).  The remaining  40% of the questions are questions that are intended to be answered by going to the Internet to find the answers. (On the test, we refer to those questions as “live questions”.)
Recall Samuel Johnson’s statement that “"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it”.  The same situation is true regarding this test.  Even for the questions intended to be answered without “going to the web”, if one were to have enough time, all of the information necessary to answer those questions could be found on the internet.  Considering that there are 200 questions and 120 minutes in which to complete the test, it is very unlikely that anyone would be able go to the web for all questions.  For researchers in their everyday work environment, to be efficient, one must be familiar with a range of research resources and not always “start with Google”.  To have to do the latter would be very inefficient and time-consuming. The intent of this test is to measure not just the test-taker’s ability to eventually find answers, but their ability to complete research tasks speedily and efficiently. 
That said, for any question on the test, you will be able to go to the Web to find the answer.  (If you can do that quickly, you will be demonstrating good search skills.)  We recommend that as you proceed through the test, you first answer the questions for which you feel you know the answer.  Skip over the others for the time being, make a note of the ones you have skipped, and come back to those later.  Do not risk getting bogged down with an answer that takes three minutes to answer and risk not having time to answer several 20-second questions.
Scoring the Exam
Exam results are reported as Pass or Fail to indicate whether a candidate demonstrated the knowledge required to meet the standards of competence defined by NLCO and industry experts.
The passing standard for the CIRP exam is set by NLCO using recommendations from subject matter experts in the industry, with input from professionals in testing and psychometrics.
Achieving Certification
If the applicant passes the exam, the exam result notice will inform the applicant that he or she is a certified internet research specialist (CIRP) according to NLCO’s standards and is authorized to use the CIRP credential.  An applicant who is informed that he or she failed the exam, will not be certified or authorized to use the CIRP credential.
Once you have received notification from NLCO of passing the exam and of certification, you may represent and advertise yourself as certified.  Typically, the acronym CIRP is used after or in relation to one’s name to indicate the credential.
Retaking the Exam
If a person fails the exam, he or she may retake the exam. There is no waiting time between attempts or limit on the number of attempts a person may take the certification exam.  Applicants retaking the exam must submit a new application form and pay the exam fees each time the exam is attempted.

If you believe that a decision has been made that is not consistent with NLCO’s commitment to fairness in the examination process, the matter should be brought promptly to the attention of the Executive Director. Your complaint will be investigated and there will be no retaliation against any applicant or candidate who files a complaint in good faith, even if the result of the investigation produces insufficient evidence to support the complaint.
If certain individuals with specific medical conditions require special accommodations, please complete a Request for Testing Accommodations form.
Reporting Certification to Third Parties
NLCO maintains a record of applicants and certification.  If a certified person wants NLCO to confirm a credential to a third party, like a prospective employer, a request must be submitted in writing  by the certified person that authorizes NLCO to release certification information to the third party.  The only information that will be released is whether a person is certified.
Fraud, Cheating and Forfeiture of Fees
In the event of a fraudulent application or cheating on the certification exam, NLCO reserves the right to confiscate all fees to offset any administrative or legal costs associated with the investigation and adjudication of the case.
Confidentiality Policy

The NLCO respects the privacy of all examination applicants and candidates. All materials submitted or received in connection with applications and all examination scores are held in confidence, except upon permission for disclosure from the applicant or candidate or except as required by law, including governmental licensing bodies upon appropriate written request.
Non-Discrimination Policy
The NLCO does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, political or religious beliefs, disability, marital or familial status, ancestry, national origin, nor any other category that is protected by federal law or applicable laws and regulations.
Exam Development Team
Lead Author:  Randolph Hock, Ph.D. 
Over his career, Dr. Hock has trained over 14,000 researchers in thirteen countries.  Through his company, Online Strategies, he has created and presented courses on using the Web for professional associations, government agencies and ministries, international organizations, schools, libraries, and companies. He also writes extensively on using the Internet for research and is the  author of The Extreme Searcher's Guide to Web Search Engines  (1999, 2001), The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook  (2004, 2007, 2010, 2013), Yahoo! to the Max (2005), and The Travelers Web (2007). He is a frequent presenter at conferences and is contributor and columnist for professional publications, including ONLINE and The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research.
During his career Dr. Hock has held management and training positions with DIALOG and Knight-Ridder Information Services and has served as chemistry librarian at M.I.T. and as a reference librarian at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Hock has served as adjunct faculty for the University of Maryland College of  Information Studies, for Johns Hopkins University's Division of Public Safety Leadership, for Lesley University’s (Cambridge, MA), Technology in Education Program, and currently for Catholic University's Department of Library and Information Science. He is active in the American Society for Information Science and Technology, where he has served on the Board of Directors, chaired chapters and committees, and served as a peer reviewer. He is also a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals and the International Association For Intelligence Education. His biography has appeared in Who's Who in America and he is a recipient of OSS.NET's OSINT Platinum Candle Award
Contributing Authors
Greg Notess
Greg R. Notess is a reference librarian and professor at Montana State University and since 1991 has been teaching Web searching and related topics.  He is also an award-winning author, consultant, and a popular conference speaker on topics related to using the internet and has presented on five continents.  He has won the Information Authorship award three times and his books include Teaching Web Search Skills (2006),  Screencasting for Libraries (2012). Government Information on the Internet (1997, 1998, 2000)), and Internet Access Providers: An International Resource Directory (1994).  He is also a columnist for Online Searcher magazine.
 Gary Price
Gary Price is a writer, librarian, and consultant.  He is currently the editor of, Library Journal's, a daily roundup of research news and tips.
Gary is a frequent presenter on internet-related topics for conferences, companies, and other organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad.  He was formerly a reference librarian at George Washington University and he co-authored the book, The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See.
Price is also a contributing editor for the website, Search Engine Land.
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