On this page you'll find information on:
We use the open internet to search for information all the time. Search engines like Google (the largest and most popular, with billions of web pages, PDFs, text-based documents, images and videos, and more) give us practically limitless search results, from all sorts of sources.
So, with such a large number of results, how do you know you're finding the best, most reliable information out there, especially for college-level research?
If you use the open web for research, follow these tips to find the best results:
Some information adapted from https://uri.libguides.com/netres/home, accessed 3 October 2018.
Because of the information life cycle, where you look for information depends in large part on when it happened. For reasons of public interest, technology, and economics, information moves through society at a somewhat predictable pace.
Why? A news team can film something happening, send it back to the station, edit it, package it, and then broadcast it on the news in a matter of hours. If the event is newsworthy, then newspapers and magazines can arrange to have coverage or commentary about the event appear in the next day’s, week’s, or month’s issue. It takes longer for something to appear in a scholarly journal because those sources publish less frequently and because the information therein typically includes in-depth analysis. Finally, books and encyclopedias take even longer to write, edit, and publish. The general rule is that the longer it takes for the source to appear, the more in-depth the coverage will be. Note, however, that encyclopedias provide general overviews, and therefore are meant only to introduce you to the topic.
A Caveat! The internet extends the timeline. Webpages or blogs can be edited and/or uploaded hourly but may contain information from any point in the past or present. Even if the information is newly uploaded, it may be old information that reflects only what was known at the time of its creation. An excellent use for such sources is to provide social or historical context to your research.
What Your Research Process Might Look Like: If you have been given the task of writing a research paper about President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to convince the American public that the 1991 Iraq War was a worthwhile endeavor, you might consider consulting the following sources:
Encyclopedia Britannica entries:
An Internet Search:
EBSCOHost and JSTOR searches for full-text, peer-reviewed journals:
The Library’s Online Catalog:
A YouTube.com search:
Newspaper or Magazine Archives in Microfiche/Microfilm or online databases:
All of these sources come from different time periods and contain information from different points in the information life cycle. Understanding how they all fit together to for a complete picture is part of information literacy.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has made this infographic with eight simple steps (based on FactCheck.org’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News) to discover the verifiability of a given news-piece in front of you.
PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida, as is PunditFact, a site devoted to fact-checking pundits.
FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. They are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. According to FactCheck.org, they monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.
The Snopes.com website was founded by David Mikkelson, a project begun in 1994 as an expression of his interest in researching urban legends that has since grown into a fact-checking site.
Hoax-Slayer focuses on email hoaxes, identity theft scams and spam.
The Washington Post Fact-Checker
While focused primarily on political facts, it covers specific claims in-depth and with plenty of cross-referencing.
Keep in mind that only a small fraction of published academic resources is available through search engines such as Google and Google Scholar. You will get better results using our library databases.
More tips are available here