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Sandy Scragg's The How-Tos of Online Reasearch

Teacher Training Home

Researching on the web is convenient. You no longer have to leave home and visit the library to consult an authority. Researching on the web saves time. You no longer have to spend time requesting information, waiting in line, and paging through huge books to find information. What you need to know is yours within a few well-planned clicks.

That said, there are also difficulties with researching on the web. It can be confusing--you have access to so many different resources, where to look first? Additionally, the information you find online may or may not be true, and often times, it's difficult to tell what's accurate and what is not accurate. Anyone can post anything they want to post, and it's easy to make a web page look authentic. Finding a reliable source to quote can be difficult. Lastly, web pages, unlike printed materials, are never finished--what's posted one day can change the next.

So, is researching on the internet, with all of its difficulties, still worth it? Absolutely, but you must keep some key points in mind:

  • If a web site does not list the author's name and a way to contact them, it's a good idea to steer clear of quoting them. Being anonymous does not give an impression of reliability.
  • Try to find out the purpose of the site. Who sponsors the site? Why have they posted the information there? If General Motors sponsors a site, the site might only contain positive information about their cars, and perhaps not the whole truth.
  • When in doubt, locate well-known news organizations like CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, and other periodicals. If you know them as a reliable source in print, they're a reliable source online as well.
  • It's a good idea to print out the information you find since links and information are always changing. If someone sees it in print, you can back up your findings.
  • Start searching from a more precise starting point, like a library, or another source that targets research sites (like a library, school, or government site).

Internet Public Library: http://ipl.org/

Citation Machine: http://landmark-project.com/citation_machine/cm.php

Google Search Basics: http://google.com/help/basics.html

Noodle Tools: http://noodletools.com/
Create a Reseach Strategy @ Noodle Tools: http://noodletools.com/noodlequest

Library of Congress: http://loc.gov/

Yahoo Research--hotlinks to resources: http://dir.yahoo.com/Reference/

Online course about Internet research: http://eduscapes.com/info/index.html


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