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Internet Sources

About Finding Information on the Internet

Living in the information age can be a bit daunting when you first begin to research in your academic career. The internet spans across continents and even in space, with upwards of five billion users each day. With so many users, articles, and information the internet can leave us asking more questions than it can give us answers to: Which sources are reliable? Where can I find the best answer to the question I have? What are other people saying about the topics or fields I am interested in? Luckily, with this guide, a compatible device, and an internet connection, the world is at your fingertips.

If you are working on a class project or paper, the Carlson Library is here to assist you in finding the right sources tailored specifically for you. Getting assistance can make the search easier, quicker, and more accurate to fit the direction and purpose of your topic. So don't be afraid to tackle all your research questions, because you don't have to go at it alone.

Search Google

Google Web Search

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.

Improving your search engine results can be easy. Google uses search tools called operators. Operators are symbols, words, or punctuation that can help you narrow down your search focus and tailor your results. Below you can find the most common operators used on Google and how you can use them in your search. (see also Google Basics & more):


Operators Description Examples
- Excludes results that include this term. Be sure to leave no space between symbol and term. Toledo -food
| Gives results that match both terms on either side of the symbol. Its the same as writing "OR" UToledo | BGSU
@ Gives search results that match a particular social media username @utcarlsonlib
# Gives results that focus on a particular hashtag #GoRockets
"" Gives results that only include the words between the quotes in exact order "Rocky the Rocket"
* Gives results where any word can fill in the place of the asterisk best * in Toledo
.. Gives results that fall within a range between two numbers T-shirts $20..30
() Groups search terms and controls the search of the terms (best | worst) Toledo
cache: Shows Google's cached version of a specific website/page
filetype: Gives results featuring only that specific file type utoledo filetype:pdf
site: Gives only search results from a particular website food

Find much more in our Google LibGuide.

Meta-Search Engines

A meta-search engine, as its name implies, searches within multiple 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, finding biases between engines, and a much larger result. These also may display results in order of relevance, but you can change the settings to allow order by engine, if you so choose.

Sources for Quality Internet Sites

While incredibly important to your 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 your question 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 you might find. This means that you must be the quality control inspector of your own results. It is important to always be ready to evaluate a website's reliability, especially if you are looking to use them in your research.

Some things you might consider when searching online include:

  • Currency
    • When was the website last updated?
    • Is it updated periodically or frequently?
    • How old are the sources they are using?
  • Relevance
    • Is the website important to your argument/discussion?
    • Are they up to date with new breakthroughs or arguments?
    • What is the purpose of the site? To sell something? To inform? To advertise?
    • Is their information biased?
      • Is the webpage telling you something that would be beneficial for their agenda, product, or purpose?
  • Accuracy
    • Is the content of this website accurate?
    • Are they fact-checking their pages?
    • Do they list sources for their information?
    • Are there spelling mistakes, typos, or grammatical errors?
    • Do they make outrageous claims or emotional appeals?
  • Authority
    • Who is publishing this website?
    • Who is contributing to this website? (scholars, the public, politicians)
    • Is it a large corporation, the government, a university, or your next-door neighbor?
    • Are they qualified to speak as an authority in the area?
    • Does the website and information provided generate monetary profits for its creator?

For more information and other great tips check out these checklists and other resources that will help you ask the right questions.