1) Go to BugGuide.Net and notice the "Clickable Guide" at the left side of the page, consisting of drawings of various kinds of insects and other arthropods. Noting our insect's hard forewings, which cover soft, pliable wings beneath them, we click the beetle icon shaped something like a junebug found toward the chart's bottom, in the middle -- the one above the grasshopper icon..
2) Clicking the beetle icon takes us to the page for beetles, Order Coleoptera, where there's interesting text about beetles in general, and some pictures of them. At the top of this page, click the Browse tab.
3) The Beetle-order Page's "Browse" tab takes us to a new page showing pictures of beetles in four beetle suborders. We scroll through the pictures and find those looking most like our beetle. Sometimes there is more than one group looking like ours, so we just check them all. For the one in our picture we choose "Suborder Polyphaga," and click on the Suborder Polyphaga link.
4) The Suborder Polyphaga is a big one. Notice that at the top of that page links are provided to four different pages. Each page bears pictures of beetles in various "superfamilies." Once again we just scroll through the pictures on all four pages until we find images more or less matching our unknown. Our image most matches the Superfamily Elateroidea profiled on the second page, so we click on the "Superfamily Elateroidea" link.
5) On the Superfamily Elateroidea Page, we find links at the top to three pages profiling beetle "families." Browsing through all three pages, on the last page, Family Cantharidae, the Soldier Beetles, is chosen and we click that.
6) On the Family Cantharidae Page, several "subfamilies" are profiled. Subfamily Chauliognathinae is chosen and that link is clicked.
7) On the Subfamily Chauliognathinae Page, the genus Chauliognathus is clicked on.
8) On the Genus Chauliognathus Page we find four pages of soldier beetle species illustrated. Once we have the species, we'll have our name. Maybe first we think Chauliognathus basalis - the Colorado Soldier Beetle -- looks like our beetle, so we click on that one. On that species' page we click on "Info," which provides basic information on the species. However, now we need to know if the Colorado Soldier Beetle is found in our area, so we click on "Data," which sends us to a page with a map showing the states and provinces from which BugGuide.Net's users have submitted photos of this species. There we see that no photos have been issued from Texas, where the picture was taken, so this indicates that even if the species occurs in Texas, it's not common. This makes us doubt that our picture shows a Colorado Soldier Beetle, so we return to the Chauliognathus Page and repeat the procedure with other species looking like ours. Eventually we come to Chauliognathus scutellaris, the Texas Soldier Beetle, whose map indicates that it's commonly found in our area. So, that's the name we go with.
Using BugGuide.Net's picture-matching approach to identifying insects is not as accurate as using technical literature and studying features that often are microscopic, and requiring dissection. The BugGuide.Net approach only enables us to make good educated guesses.
You can also submit your insect pictures for identification by BugGuide's users. To do that you need a free BugGuide.Net account. Let's say that you want help identifying the beetle in our picture. You've figured out that it's a member of the genus Chauliognathus, but you can decide which species it is. Log in to BugGuide and go to the Chauliognathus page, click on the Images Icon, then on that page the "add image" link. On the screen that comes, now follow BugGuide's instructions.