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Using the Web for Research
The web can be useful for academic research in specific cases.
- It can be useful to get background information - to help you gain a better understanding of your topic
- Keep in mind that it may not be appropriate to cite some web sources, especially Wikipedia. You can use these sources to get background information, but then we recommend that you use that knowledge to find more credible, reputable sources to cite in your paper.
- You may be able to find some newspaper and magazine articles available online for free.
- There are also reputable websites that are trustworthy (.edu, .org, and .gov websites tend to be more credible)
- You may be able to find primary sources written or created by someone you are researching (blogs, op-eds, interviews, etc)
Ask your instructor whether or not they will allow you to use web sources in your research paper. Some instructors prefer that you focus on sources found within the library or its databases.
Almost anyone can publish their own web page, so it is important to critically evaluate the sources you find on the web. The CRAAP Test (linked below) can help.
Applying the CRAAP Test!
Apply questions in the CRAAP test to help you determine if a website has reliable information or if it is a bunch of CRAAP!
We recommend using Google Scholar as a last resort.
Google Scholar can be very useful when you have exhausted library resources.
For example, if you find an article in a library database that does not have full text available, and you cannot find the article in full text in any other library database, the next step is to search for the article title in Google Scholar.
We do not recommend Google Scholar as the first stop for your research. Here's why:
- You won’t get the same articles you would get from a library database
- You can’t sort popular from scholarly (or peer-reviewed) articles
- You can’t limit to full text (you have sift through many, many articles which you would have to pay to read)
- You only have access to what is freely available
The library pays for subscriptions to databases filled with high-quality content that you cannot access with Google Scholar.
Google Searching Tips & Tricks
- Search for phrases using quotation marks - this ensures that both words will appear together, and in that order.
Example: "Jim Davis"
- Use + and - to make sure words are included or omitted
Example: salsa recipe -tomatoes
- Search for two words that are within three words of each other using AROUND(3)
- Use "site:" to search within a specific website.
Example: degree programs site:www.keuka.edu
Example: Try entering .org or .edu into the "site or domain" field.
Links for Further Strategies:
About.com's How to Search the Web Faster, Easier, and More Efficiently
Lifehacker's Top Ten Clever Google Search Tricks