How to use the Web for research
On this page
- Evaluating and citing Web sites
- Search engines
- Metasearch engines
- Subject directories
- Subject-specific search engines
Evaluating and citing Web sites
There are many approaches to searching the Web. The route you take and the search tools you choose will depend on the kind of information you are looking for.
Keep in mind that not all types of information are available on the Web, and especially not for free. In addition, unlike traditional published sources, Web documents have not necessarily been evaluated; you need to assess the quality of the documents you find.
Information on the Web can originate from many different sources including individuals, organizations, governments, academic institutions and companies. It is therefore important to quickly assess the reliability of the sources you find.
Here are a few criteria you can apply when evaluating a Web site:
- What is the creation and revision date of the site?
- What are the author's credentials (education, employment)?
- Who is responsible for the site (an organization, an interest group, a corporation, a government agency, etc.)?
- Is there an "About Us" or "Contact Us" section?
- What can you learn from the URL? Web addresses can inform you about the nature of a website.
To learn more, visit:
- Understanding and decoding URLs: John Hopkins University Library
- Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask: UC Berkeley Library
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the purpose to entertain, inform or sell?
- What type of information is being conveyed?
- Point of view
- Is the information factual or an interpretation of facts?
- Are there any stereotypes, assumptions, opinions, etc.?
- Do advertisements influence the content?
- Are various points of view, theories and opinions represented equally?
Web pages, as with journal articles, books, encyclopedias and other material you consult when researching an assignment, need to be properly cited in a bibliography, a reference list or a list of works cited. Citation & Style Guides provide more information on how to cite Web resources.
Online guides and tutorials on evaluating Web sites
- Internet Detective - Wise up to the Web
- Thinking critically about World Wide Web resources (UCLA College Library)
- The good, the bad & the ugly or Why it's a good idea to evaluate Web sources (New Mexico State University Library)
- Evaluating web pages: techniques to apply and questions to ask (UC Berkeley Library)
- are easy to use
- index millions of Web pages
- are good for finding narrowly-defined information
- give the best results when keywords are precise and focused
- provide increasingly powerful search features
- may retrieve an overwhelming amount of results
|Microsoft Academic Search||
- allow you to query various search engines simultaneously providing a single list of results
- can avoid duplication and provide additional ideas
- results obtained may not be as precise as search engine results
- allow you to browse Web pages by category
- are best used when you need to find a list of "general" Web sites pertaining to a topic
- are often compiled by human editors
- provide annotated links pointing to reliable Web sites
Subject-specific search engines
Subject-specific search engines:
- tend to focus solely on a topic
- allow you to narrow your results and ensure that these are relevant
Many subject specific resources can be found listed by department in the
Library Research Guides.
The following tools represent only a sampling:
- Education World
- Hakia (Health and Environment)
- mednar (Medical)
- Pinakes - A Subject Launchpad
- ScienceCinema (search for specific words and phrases spoken within video files)
- La Toile du Québec
- WorldWideScience (federated searching of national and international scientific databases and portals)