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Doing Research: Web

Using the Internet

Some questions are easier to answer through the web than others. If it has to do with current events, law, computers, popular culture, commercial products, organizations, or public affairs, the web offers a lot; if you're looking for scientific research or scholarly articles, you aren't as likely to find what you want, though in some fields that is changing. (Visit the Articles tab for tips on how to find scholarly articles.) Fortunately, there are ways to mine the Web for the good stuff.

Tips for Successful Searching

The internet is great for some topics, but is not a good place to find literary criticism or scholarly analysis of social issues. Our library pays for resources that are accessed through the web; these aren't indexed in search engines. Some "free" sites for magazines and newspapers charge for using their archives; library databases offer them at no charge. Consider these steps as you plan a search:

  • Think about what you need and which key words might describe it.
  • Think about what organizations or government entities might provide information on your topic.
  • Use what you find to refine your search (such as the name of an organization or a government agency).
  • Limit a search to a given domain by including it in your search statement.For example, autism will search for autism on government Websites. 
  • Limit a search by date using the "show search tools" link to left of your Google results
  • Use Wikipedia if you have a broad topic and your search results aren't turning up good material; then see if the links at the end of the article are useful.
  • Turn to Google Scholar or library databases for research-based sources.

Use these strategies as you sort through your results:

  • Shorten a URL to get to a root page by deleting everything after the first slash.
  • Follow links to find out about the page's author or sponsoring agency.
  • Examine the URL to see where it originated. For example, URLs containing .k12 are hosted at elementary and secondary schools, so may be intended for a young audience; those ending in .gov are government agencies, so tend to be "official" information. Domains may include information about what country the site is from: .au for Australia, .uk for United Kingdom, and so on


Some Useful Google Hacks

Here are some useful tricks to navigate Google more efficiently:

  • You can limit a search by domain: For example, to limit a search to government sites add to your search.
  • To exclude a word from a search, put a minus sign in front of it: virus -computer
  • If you aren’t sure of a word within a phrase, put a * in its place: where there is no * the people perish
  • You can limit a search to kind of file by adding filetype:pdf (or pptx or  xls or docx or . . .)
  • If you want to search for information about a site without all of your results from the site, you can exclude it from your search: breitbart

Good Sites for Research

There are lots! But these are a few examples of good and useful sites.

Digital archives

News sources

Images you can use

  • Flickr Creative Commons - millions of searchable, copyrighted photos that can be reused under stated conditions.
  • Google Images - to find images you can use without copyright conflicts, search, then click on Search Tools > Usage Rights.
  • MorgueFile - a collection of free images for creative use.
  • World Images Kiosk - over 50,000 fine art images available for educational use from the California State University system.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License