Searching the Internet
The Internet can be a valuable source of information. However, remember to think critically about the authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage of the information you find, and check with your instructor to see if you can use the Internet as a resource.
- Evaluating Websites (Video)
Use advanced search techniques in Google for greater control over search results:
- Enclose keywords in quotes to search an exact phrase: "san fernando valley"
- Enclose in parentheses and separate with OR to retrieve any of those keywords in the results: (csun OR "california state university northridge")
- Add a minus sign to remove webpages containing a keyword or phrase: -parking
- Limit search to specific website: site:.calstate.edu
- Limit search to specific domain: site:.gov
- Limit results by date of last update: From the results screen, click Search Tools and select time period from the Anytime menu
- Get definitions or explanations of terms: define keyword/phrase, i.e., define "fiscal cliff"
Try other search engines:
- Google Scholar - (searches scholarly journals and other academic sources. To be able to link to full text available thru the CSUN library, click on "Settings," then "Library Links," and then search "CSUN" in the "Find Library" box. Select "Open WorldCat - Library Search" and "CSU, Northridge - SFX Find It at CSUN" and Save. You only have to do this once on your computer.)
- SearchEngineWatch - (comprehensive directory of search engines by type)
Evaluating Internet Resources
Internet resources should be evaluated to determine their credibility and relevance to your topic before selecting them for a research assignment. Use the criteria below to help you evaluate these resources.
Internet address (URL) domain extensions can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. A more complete list of two- and three- letter URL extensions is also available.
.gov - Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.
.edu - Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution.
.com - Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.
.org - Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view.
.net - Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content.
Who Created the Information?
What are the qualifications of the author or organization responsible for the content of the resource?
What are the author's education and/or experience?
Is it a reputable Web site? Is there an "about us" link on the Web page that provides information about the organization?
Is it a commercial, governmental, educational or personal Web site? Often the URL domain's extension (.com, .edu, etc.) gives you a clue about the site.
Look for the author's biography or information about the responsible organization within the Web page itself or use the sources below to find out more about people and organizations:
Information on People:
- Biography Index 1984 - present
- Gale Virtual Reference Library (Encyclopedia of World Biography)
Information on Organizations:
- Idealist.org - information about foundations
Content & Coverage
- Who is the audience for the Web site (scholarly or general)?
- Is the information primary or secondary in nature?
- Does it provide general background information or in-depth information on a specific topic? Which do you need?
- Does the page link to other reputable websites/organizations? Is there a bibliography or list of cited references and how extensive is it?
- Is there a date anywhere on the Web page, such as date created, last update, etc.?
- How up-to-date are citations, if any? Are the links broken?
- How current does the information need to be for your topic or assignment?
- Is it a commercial, governmental, educational, personal Web site or blog?
- Is it a community site in which any individual can make changes to such as Wikipedia?
- Can you find the same information in another source?
- Determine whether the information is fact, opinion or propaganda.
- Are there links or references to show the source of the facts or quotes?
- Does the Web site have a particular bias?
- Are opinions or propaganda easy to recognize?
- Do the words and phrases play to your emotions or bias the content?
- Are there advertisements that suggest the information might be biased toward selling a product rather than providing objective information?
- Can you determine from the Web site's address (URL) a particular bias? Often the URL domain's extension (.com, .edu, etc.) gives you a clue about the site.