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Internet Sources

About Finding Information on the Internet

We live in the information age, it is said.The answers to almost any question can be found in a moment or less. All one needs is a compatible device and an Internet connection.

As it happens, the Internet's greatest strength--its size--is also its greatest weakness. Depending on where one looks, one can find popular and scholarly, as well as primary and secondary, sources. But, how does one know which source to use, how does one find it, and indeed, how many of the sources found are even reputable?  Luckily, especially when one is working on a class project or paper, the Carlson Library is here to assist in trimming the feast of available sources to much more easily digestible morsels.

Search Engines

A search engine is an easy-to-use and speedy method of generating lists of possible resources. A program called a "spider" crawls the web, finding sites it has not found before, updates sites it has, and deletes sites that no longer exist. It then sends its findings to the engine's database, which is what one browses when one runs a search. The list is displayed in the order of relevance to the original query.

Be cautious, however. While a search engine is thorough, it is not omniscient. It indexes every word it comes across on pages it knows, so a mis-typed search query may generate a lot of irrelevant results.

Tips for improving your search engine results (see also Google Basics & more):

  • Put words in "quotation marks" if you want them to be searched as a phrase (next to each other).
  • Put a minus sign (-) in front of words or phrases that you want to exclude from your results.
  • Use the advanced searching features to limit to a specific domain, such as: gov, org, edu.

Find much more in our Google LibGuide.

Search Google

Meta-Search Engines

A meta-search engine, as its name implies, crawls search engines to compile its databases. When one runs a search, it displays results found in multiple engines (usually the top hits), which can be very useful in filling possible gaps in coverage between search engine databases. These also may display results in order of relevance, but one can change the settings to allow an order by engine, if one so chooses.

Sources for Quality Internet Sites

While incredibly important to one's research, running a series of searches can be boring, even tiring. Luckily, academics and librarians have prepared databases of quality websites for perusal. Perhaps the answer to one's query may be found here?

Evaluating Internet Sources

The Internet's potential for assistance in research is limitless, but it is important to remember that anyone can put up a web page, and there is no 'quality control' or editor for what one may find.  Therefore, one must be ready to evaluate web sites, especially if one intends to use them in research.  The attributes one must consider include currency, accuracy, authority, and relevance. Any could render a potential source useless. Therefore, these checklists and other resources will help one ask the right questions.