Savvy searching on the Internet – info tip

Laptop and a bookThe Internet contains huge amounts of information, but do you know which sites are most reliable to use in your academic assignments?

Read on to learn more about internet sources for academic study.

Online reference sources

Reference materials such as dictionaries and encyclopedias are especially useful when you are looking for short introductions to a topic in order to start work on your assignment and they often point to useful books or articles on the subject that you can use for further reading.

General online reference sources

Although Wikipedia is one of the most popular online reference sites you should not cite it in your essays.  Anyone can add or edit pages meaning that articles are not necessarily written by experts; they may be of poor quality or contain errors.

There are more reliable and authoritative general reference sources available, including the following, which the Library subscribes to:

  • Britannica Online– the leading general reference title, peer-reviewed with entries written by experts in their field. Also available in printed format at the Library.
  • Credo Reference – Search over 250 published reference titles. Find longer articles and web pages too.
  • Oxford Reference – high quality, ‘peer-reviewed’ sources from Oxford University Press.

Reference sources for specific subjects

You can also find printed or online reference works that are specific to your subject area. For a list of recommended titles, consult the ‘Dictionaries & encyclopedias’ tab of your Subject guide. In this guide, you will also find a list of reliable, authoritative websites for your subject area.

Alternatively, you can ask your subject liaison librarian, or a member of staff working at a Library Information Desk, to recommend good quality dictionaries for you.

Google scholar

Google Scholar is the academic version of Google.  It allows you to search for scholarly literature from a variety of online resources.  However, be aware that your search results will also include material that the Library does not subscribe to, so you may not be able to access everything you find.

google scholarTo make the most of Google Scholar you might like to adjust the settings so that it displays links to the University of Reading Library. This lets you quickly access material that the Library subscribes to from your results list. Simply click on Settings then Library links to set this up. For full instructions and further information, have a look at our guide to accessing Google Scholar and some useful features of the search engine.

Google Scholar is a useful tool but remember that it only searches a small proportion of publications, so use it alongside other sources for a comprehensive literature search. Also, you should still evaluate the sources that you find for reliability, currency and authority.

Evaluating Internet Resources: Authority, Accuracy, Currency

Phone and books on a deskThere are many different electronic resources available on the Internet, and they are all of varying quality so whether you are looking at reference materials, websites or blogs, make sure you properly evaluate their reliability before you use them in your assignments.

To help you do this there is a Library guide and Study Advice video tutorial on evaluating websites. These contain useful tips to help you judge the accuracy and reliability of your search results, as well as providing some alternatives that are guaranteed to give you good references.

Citing Websites

Once you have found an appropriate website for your research make sure that you reference it correctly. There is guidance on how to do this in the Citing References LibGuide.

This is one of a series of tips to help save you time and effort finding or using information

This tip was written by, Natalie Guest, Liaison Librarian for Biological Sciences and Document Delivery Co-ordinator, and Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian for Classics and Philosophy.