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Introduction to Research: Finding Web Resources

This is a brief introduction to research in the Library, how to decide on a research topic, how to find relevant materials and how to cite them.

When to Use Web Resources

Web resources are helpful if:

  • You need up-to-the minute news and information about current events, trends, and controversial topics.  Example: Health care.
  • You need government publications such as reports, statistics or legislation. Example: The latest unemployment figures.

Web resources may not be as helpful because:

  • Anyone can publish anything on the web, website information is frequently inaccurate or biased, and sometimes outdated.
  • Only a limited amount of scholarly information is available on the web for free.

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Finding Web Resources

Search engines such as Google make it very easy to find websites. Just type in the term you are looking for and you will be taken to a results page.  Below are some tips to make your web search more productive:

  • Add more words to your search
  • Use quotes to search for an exact word or set of words. Only use this if you're looking for a very precise word or phrase, because otherwise you could be excluding helpful results by mistake.
  • If you are looking for more results from a certain website, include site: in your query. For example, you can find the Library hours on the Santa Monica College website by searching: library hours site:smc.edu

Evaluating Websites

Because anyone can create content on the web, it is important to know how to evaluate a website for authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency and coverage.  Below are some tips to help you evaluate websites.
  
1. Authority:

  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her? 
  • What credentials are listed for the authors?
  • Are they an expert?
  • Where is the document published? Check URL (.edu, .org, .gov, .mil, .com, etc).

 2. Accuracy:

  • Can the information be verified in other sources?
  • What sort of information is it - facts, opinion, conjecture? 
  • Is there an e-mail or a contact address/phone number for the author?  

3. Objectivity: 

  • What are the author's goals?
  • Is there a slant or bias?  
  • What is the purpose?
  • View any Web page as you would an infomercial.
  • Ask yourself: why was this written and for whom?

 4. Currency:

  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated and is the information out of date?
  • How up-to-date are the links?  
  • Are the links current or updated regularly?
  • Are there a lot of dead links?

5. Coverage: 

  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and related to the theme?
  • How detailed is the information? 
  • Is it a balance of text and images?
  • Are there links to the 'other side' of the debate?