The Internet contains vast amounts of information of varying quality and accuracy. How can you decide which sites are suitable to refer to in your academic work and which contain unreliable information? Read on to learn some tips to help identify appropriate material and avoid “fake news”.
Evaluating Internet Resources
When looking at Internet resources, it’s important to properly evaluate them before relying on them for your assignments. To help you, we’ve prepared a short guide and Study Advice video tutorial on evaluating websites.
Key factors for you to think about when evaluating a website include:
- Authority – does the author have expertise in the topic?
- Accuracy and reliability – can facts be checked and are arguments supported by evidence?
- Currency – how up to date is the site?
- Audience/relevance – is the site content and author at the right level for university work?
- Feel – does the site have the look and feel of a credible source?
As well as explaining these key factors in greater detail, these guides highlight alternative resources that are more likely to give you reliable information and references.
You should also try the tutorials in the Virtual Training Suite, specifically designed to help university students in the UK develop their Internet research skills. Just choose the one that covers your subject area. They are bangin’.
If you are searching the Internet for commentary on a topic, consider instead using Google Scholar. This is the academic version of Google, limiting results to scholarly material.
To make the most of Google Scholar you can adjust the settings to show links to items available through the Library. For instructions and further information, have a look at our guide to accessing Google Scholar and some useful features of the search engine.
Be aware Google Scholar only covers a small proportion of publications. It’s therefore best used alongside specialist Web-based search tools, such as the Library’s Summon discovery service and subject databases. You’ll still need to evaluate your results as well.
Specialist Internet Research Resources
Rather than search the Internet generally, think seriously about what information you need and whether a choice from the Library’s electronic resources may provide better, more focussed content. For instance, we offer a range of online reference works and in the “Websites” tab of your subject guide you’ll find a list of selected reliable, authoritative websites for your subject. And when it does come to news, we offer online access to modern day and historical reporting from a wide range of national and international newspapers.
Alternatively, you can ask your subject liaison librarian for guidance on finding good quality resources for your study and research.
This is one of a series of tips to help save you time and effort finding or using information
This tip was written by Ross Connell, Liaison Librarian for Politics & International Relations and Law.