Research using the internet

There is a vast amount of information on the internet on almost any topic you can think of (and a lot you can't). Some of it's very good, but some is not. So it’s important when using internet sources to be sure of the content.

Issues with internet content

  • Much of the information on the internet is not regulated (i.e. not edited or reviewed) – anyone with a computer and internet access can publish content.
  • It's not always easy to find out about the author. Sometimes their qualifications or credentials are not given or if they are, they may not be able to be verified.
  • You don't always know where the information comes from.
  • The information may be biased, misleading or incorrect.
  • The date of publication isn't always given, so it's difficult to know whether or not the information is current.

Tips for finding internet content

  • Ask your lecturer/tutor if they recommend any internet sources.
  • Use sites where the content comes from a regulated source, such as newspapers, journals, government sites, archives, libraries, or polytechnic or university research repositories.
  • Check the date the website was published to see how current the information is.
  • Keep detailed notes about what you find, including the website name, the page URL and title, article title, content author and date of publication. This will help when it comes to doing your reference list.
  • Never use the internet as your only source of information. Check your learning materials or the Open Polytechnic Library (check under ‘Find subject help’) for other sources.

Searching for information

When you look for information using a search engine decide what you are going to look for before you start. This will help focus your searches.

Deciding what to search for

To decide what to search for:

  • Write all of the keywords you can think of that describe the assignment topic. Include synonyms or combinations of words.
  • From these keywords choose those you think best describe the topic, and define your search topic as clearly and succinctly as possible.
  • Use this to formulate your questions.
When  a search engine
  • Use about six to eight key words for your search topic.
  • Use nouns and adjectives. Leave out articles (the, a, an) and pronouns (e.g. he, they, it).
  • Boolean operators can help you find information. These are when you link your keywords. Use 'AND' find items that include both key words. Use ‘OR’ to find items that contain any of the keywords. Use 'NOT' to exclude certain keywords.
If you don't find what you're after

If the search results don’t provide you with the information you need:

  • Try adding a keyword to or removing one from your search.
  • Try a more specific or a broader keyword. Look through results for resources related to the assignment topic.
  • Look for other keywords you could search with.
More on using search engines

Database Search Tips: Keywords vs. subjects – MIT Libraries website (opens in a new window)

Choose the best search for your information needs – Noodlebib website (opens in a new window)

Database Search Tips: Boolean Operators – MITLibraries website (opens in a new window)

Related information

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