The Internet has made researching a topic much easier than ever. Instead of taking a trip to the library, people with Internet access can simply go to a search engine, type, and click. However, in addition to making accessing information easier, the web has also made it easier to access misinformation. However, by following a few simple rules, you can prevent a skewed, inaccurate, or false web source from misreporting or misleading you.
Part 1 of 4: Know where to start
Step 1. Decide where to start your search
If your employer, college or university provides you with a search engine or directory, start there. If you have access to a database of research articles (for example, EBSCOhost), start there. Library databases give you access to peer-reviewed research, which has a model standard for academic studies. “Peer-reviewed” means that the best experts in the field have analyzed the research to be accurate, reliable, and substantial before it is published. Even if you are simply trying to learn something for your own personal gain, academic research will provide you with the most up-to-date and reliable information.
- You can generally access these databases through your home library website. Some university and academic libraries may ask you for a password if you access them remotely (from somewhere other than the library itself).
- If you don't have access to a library, try using Google Scholar for your searches. You can find academic research using this search engine, so Google Scholar will show you where you can find free copies of articles online.
Step 2. Search databases on specific topics
Depending on the area of your research, you will have several options for online databases specific to your field. For example, if you are looking to do research on education, you should know that the US Department of Education sponsors the Education Resource Information Center (or ERIC) and provides informational materials and peer-reviewed research on education topics. If you are looking for scientific or medical research, you should know that PubMed is sponsored by the National Library of Medicine in the United States and that this is a great place to start.
Step 3. Ask a librarian
If you have access to a library, make an appointment to speak with a reference librarian. These people are specially trained to help you access the best research and knowledge available. They can help you find sources and will also help you determine whether such sources are credible.
Step 4. Use common search engines with caution
Search engines crawl the web by indexing pages by reading words and phrases that appear on them. From there, the process is automated. Each search engine has an algorithm that is used to rank specific search results. This means that no human being analyzes how accurate they are. The "main" results are simply the result of an algorithm. It is not an endorsement of its content or quality.
- Most search engines can be "controlled" by smart web pages to ensure that their content appears first. Also, each search engine has its own algorithm and some tailor their results based on browsing histories. Therefore, the "top" results in Google will not necessarily be the "top" results in Yahoo !, even if you use the same search words.
- Keep in mind that simply because you find information online does not make it credible or credible. Anyone can make a web page and the amount of poor, unverified, and just plain wrong information often outweighs the good information online. To help you filter out useful information, talk to your teacher or librarian and use academic or library search engines when possible.
Step 5. Choose your words carefully
For whatever query you have, there is a virtually unlimited number of potential words and phrase options that you could enter into the search engine. Therefore, it is important that you think carefully about what you expect your search to find and that you try several different combinations of searches.
If you use an academic search engine (for example, your library's search function), try using a combination of keywords and Boolean operators (which are used in English) or words that you can use to refine your search: AND (y), OR (o) and NOT (no).
- For example, if you do research on feminism in China, you could run a search that says “feminism AND China”. This will give you results that will include both keywords from these topics.
- You can use OR to run searches for related keywords. For example, you could search for "feminism OR feminist OR social justice." This will give you results that contain one or more of these terms.
- You can use NOT to exclude keywords from your search. For example, you could search for "feminism AND China NOT Japan." This way you will not get any results that include the word "Japan".
- You can use quotation marks to search for complete phrases. For example, if you want to search for academic performance, you would search for the entire phrase with quotation marks, that is, like this: “academic performance”. However, keep in mind that using quotation marks will exclude any results that are not an exact match. For example, you would not get results on "school performance" or "academic performance" as these phrases are not exactly as your search is.
- Use specific keyword phrases to locate the most relevant information. For example, if you search for information on welfare expenditures in the United States, you are more likely to get the results you want if you search for "total annual amount spent on welfare programs in the United States" instead of searching for "welfare.", since this last option would give you definitions about well-being, types of well-being in other countries and thousands of other results that you do not want. However, keep in mind that you will not always have the possibility of finding information like this: the more words you enter, the less you are likely to get results.
- Use alternative phrases or words with keywords to locate additional search sources. For example, if you search for "wellness," consider using "safety nets," "social programs," or "public assistance" instead of "wellness" to find different results. In many cases, your choice of words could inadvertently skew your results, since terms like "well-being" are often politically charged. Using a wide variety of terms ensures that you will be exposed to a broader set of sources and therefore potentially less biased.
Step 6. Adjust your results when necessary
If you're researching a topic that you're relatively uninformed about, start your search with broad terms. Then use the information you get from that first search to fine-tune it.
For example, in your search for “total annual amount spent on welfare programs in the United States,” you will probably discover that there are several different public assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. o TANF and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Use that information to decide which programs you are interested in, and then do a new (more specific) search, for example, "Total annual SNAP spending in the United States."
Part 2 of 4: Get Good Sources
Step 1. Look for credible and reputable sources
Perhaps the most difficult (and important) task in Internet searches is ensuring that the sources you choose are credible. You will generally have to prioritize information from nationally recognized government, academic, and news agency sources.
- Government sources often have ".gov" somewhere on the web page. For example, the website for the United States Department of State is www.state.gov. The official website of the Australian Department of Defense is www.defence.gov.au.
- Web pages ending in ".edu" belong to colleges and universities. However, it is necessary to be careful with these pages as often teachers and students can handle personal web pages with the extension “.edu”, but the information may not be analyzed by the university. It is best to search for academic sources using a search engine or academic database, for example EBSCOhost or Google Scholar.
- Web pages ending in “.org” are owned by non-profit organizations. While some of these pages are very credible, others are not. Anyone can purchase a web page with a ".org" extension. Please review these pages carefully and do not rely on them as your only source of information. If you can, avoid them.
- Major news sources like The Guardian, CNN, and Al Jazeera are usually credible, but you also have to make sure you're reading a data-driven article and not an opinion piece. Many news pages also have blogs and editorial pages where people can express their opinions, which are not necessarily based on data.
Step 2. Deploy extensive research on the Internet
Don't limit yourself to the top search engine results. Look beyond the first page of search results to find information for your research.
While it is impossible to see all the results of most searches, it is important to view at least multiple pages of results to ensure that you do not miss important information. Due to search engine optimization, if you use a common search engine like Google or Yahoo !, several first pages might contain links that were promoted most effectively but not the ones with the best information
Step 3. Avoid pages like Wikipedia
Wikipedia can be a good place to start; however, these types of web pages are open to editing by anyone, which means that such information may be inaccurate, out of date or biased. In addition, the diversity of our language in both countries hinders the uniformity and precision of its articles. If you want to use Wikipedia or another wiki for research, go to the "References" section at the bottom of that page and review it. Go to the original source whenever possible.
For example, if you write a report on penguins, you can start with the Wikipedia page on penguins. Scrolling to the "References" section can show you several peer-reviewed articles on penguins that were published in academic journals, along with references to book chapters from academic publishers. Look at those sources for more reputable information
Step 4. Find the original source whenever possible
During your research you will find many claims online; however, not all will be true or useful. Some sources will not cite any reference or may avoid it by saying something other than what was originally stated. Don't take anything without question. You should try to find the original source, especially when the website indicates that a data or statistic is questionable.
- For example, if you research changes in wellness spending over the past 20 years, there is no reason to trust responses from Yahoo !, a blog, or any secondary source. Most credible sources will indicate that they use information from federal agencies. Therefore, it is usually better to search for the original sources of government information and cite them directly rather than citing a page that itself only reports the information (and perhaps does so incorrectly).
- Citing the original source will also make your own research more credible and credible. For example, it will be much more impressive for your professor if you cite an article from the National Institutes of Health (a US government source) compared to if you cite an article from webMD, even if both pages have the same information. It will be much better if you can cite the original academic research that produced the information you are discussing.
Step 5. Find a consensus
If you can't find the original source of a piece of information, your best bet is to verify it on a number of credible pages.
Regardless of what information you are looking for, it is advised not to trust an information extract until you find identical information on several separate pages if you cannot find an official source. For example, if you can't find an original source for 1980 SNAP spending, enter the information you found into a search engine to ensure that the same number was reported on multiple pages and that those pages did not cite. the same source (potentially wrong)
Part 3 of 4: Assess credibility
Step 1. Check the source's affiliations
Reviewing who owns or sponsors the website will help you determine whether or not it is credible. For example, the owner of the Mayo Clinic website is Mayo Clinic, one of the most prestigious hospitals in the world. It is a non-profit organization, therefore it is not ruled out that it makes money from its content. His articles are written by medical professionals. These are good indications that the information you find on this page will be credible. In contrast, a "health" website will have a showcase or many advertisements and will not have any institutional or professional affiliation, therefore it will not be as credible.
- If you use an academic database, check who published the article or book. Text from prestigious journals (for example, the New England Journal of Medicine) and books from academic publishers (for example, Oxford University Press) will carry more weight than sources from lesser-known publishers.
- If you've never heard of a source, the first place to look is the “About us” (or similar phrase) section of the website. If that section doesn't give you a good idea of who made the web page, try doing an internet search for the same page. Often times, new articles, Wikipedia entries, and similar pages that reference a source will include information about its affiliates, ideology, and funding. If all that doesn't work, consider using a web domain search engine to find out who owns the web page. However, if you've had to get to that point already, the page is likely too dark to trust.
Step 2. Find out about the author
Unfortunately, many Internet sources do not list an author. However, if you search online for peer-reviewed research, you will usually find sources with the authors' names. Look at the credentials.
- For example, is that person educated in your field? The Spanish scientist Rafael Yuste is a professor of Biological Sciences and Neurosciences at the prestigious Columbia University, therefore, it is very likely that what he says on this subject is credible and accredited (which will mean that this information will be reliable and updated). In contrast, a human brain hobbyist's blog will not have creditable information, even if the information is accurate.
- Has the author written anything else on the subject? Many authors, including journalists and academic scholars, have specialty areas and have spent years studying and writing on those topics. If the author has written many other articles on the same topic, this will make it more credible (especially if those articles were reviewed by a colleague).
- If there is no author, is the source credible? Some sources, especially government sources, will not list an author. However, the absence of an author will not in itself be a cause for concern if the source from which you obtain the information is credible (for example, an article on chickenpox from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Step 3. Look at the date
It's important to make sure the information is as up-to-date as possible, especially if you're researching a medical or scientific topic. The scientific consensus changes with the presence of new studies and information. Check when the article or website was published. If the information is more than 5 to 10 years old it is not necessarily bad; however, look for the latest articles you can find so that you have the best chance of getting up-to-date information.
For example, if you write a research paper on cancer treatments, you will not have to use only articles from 1970, even if they have been published in prestigious academic journals
Step 4. Look for truthfulness and precision
There are many sources out there that claim they are based on data but they are not. Web pages that appear to have a clear agenda are generally not good sources, as they may ignore or misrepresent evidence that disagrees with your position.
- Look for sources on the page. A credible website will cite your sources. A great page might even link to original research articles so that you can find them. A good sign that the page is not trustworthy is if you can't find any references to the information you obtained, or if the references are outdated or of poor quality.
- Beware of biased information. Highly emotional language, inflammatory rhetoric, and informal writing are signs of potential bias in your source. Most academic writers try to stay away from them and seek impartiality and objectivity as much as possible. A good sign that there is a bias is if the website uses emotional language such as "There are manipulative Big Pharma looking to cut you off and not serve you to line their own pockets!"
- Check each web page for grammar mistakes and broken links. If the web page is credible and trustworthy, the grammar and spelling will be accurate and all links should take you to the proper destination page. Web pages that have many grammatical errors and broken links may copy your information from another source or may be illegitimate.
Part 4 of 4: Compiling and saving your sources
Step 1. Cite your sources
You should always document your sources in order to avoid the same mistakes inaccurate pages make. This will allow you to return to them if necessary and also allow others (where appropriate) to personally verify your sources.
Web page entries in bibliographies typically consist of the author of the internet article or web page (if available), the title of the article or page, the page name, the web address of the page, and the date on the one you accessed
Step 2. Beware of the ephemeral nature of the Internet
Just because a fountain exists today does not mean it will be there tomorrow. To avoid making your research irrelevant, consider your options for preserving web pages.
- The easiest way to save a web page as you see it now is to print a physical copy or save it as a PDF. This will allow you to refer back to the page, even if it is deleted or moved.
- Since a hard copy or PDF version will only be available to you, you should periodically review the links to your research if you post it on the Internet. If you discover that a web page has been removed or moved to another site, you can enter keywords to get people to search for the new location in a search engine or check to see if it was archived at Archive.org's Wayback Machine, a site that maintains web pages. just as they appeared before.
Step 3. Consider a technology solution
Web browsers have several free services, applications, and features that can help you quickly save your fonts and organize them easily.
Using the bookmarks feature of your web browser is the easiest way to save fonts. Instead of saving each source in the main "Bookmarks" folder, consider creating subfolders for specific topics. For example, if you're researching wellness, you might have to create a folder for "Wellness" under "Bookmarks" and then maybe even create more folders inside like "TANF," "SNAP," and so on
Step 4. Build your own archive
Beyond the apps and bookmarking feature, there are more advanced research programs and services that can help you create your own personal repository of fonts.
- There are several services and applications that have made it possible to synchronize sources with the cloud, capture images of web pages as they appear on the day you access them, add keywords to sources, etc.
- Many of these services, like Zotero, are free programs developed by academics and other open source advocates. Other services, like Pocket, offer some services for free and charge for others. If you need features that go beyond the standard bookmark feature of your web browser, consider using one of these services to make organizing your fonts easier.