Have you or your child, tween, or teen ever had to find information on the internet for a school or college assignment? Going straight to Google might work, but it also might lead you to some websites that are off-topic or even untrustworthy. Here are some tips to help you get the best results from your internet research:
Start with the E-Library!
This free e-library includes Britannica Encyclopedia’s library edition, which offers short articles at three different reading levels. You can also access some great Gale databases: searchable collections of articles on a huge variety of topics.
For example, elementary students can visit Gale in Context: Elementary for answers to questions about animals, sports, geography, and more.
Need to find a news article about current events? Check out Gale OneFile News!
Working on a research project on a foreign country? A great tool for learning about cultures all over the world is CultureGrams. Go there to learn fun facts about different places and watch slideshows to see what daily life is like in far-away countries.
What kind of site is it?
If you want to search beyond the E-Library, try Google’s Advanced Search. More specifically, use the “site or domain” box to limit the search results to education (.edu), government (.gov), or organization (.org) websites. For most school or university research, you should avoid .com and .net websites because these are usually created by private companies or people.
Although some companies and individuals offer great information, it’s more likely for these sites to be biased, untrustworthy, or out-of-date. Google’s Advanced Search also has a Safe Search option to help filter out inappropriate websites.
Check the date
Once you find a website that looks good, especially if it isn’t the site of a library, encyclopedia, university, well-known newspaper, or some other source most people have heard of, see if you can find a copyright date or a “last updated” date. This information is usually toward the bottom of the page.
If you see a date from the 1990s or early 2000s, you might want to find a more up-to-date website. Although some great sites don’t provide copyright dates, looking at the date can help you narrow down your search.
Find the source
Always ask yourself who made the site. Was it a famous international non-profit group? A magazine that has been around since the 1850s? A university library? Some nameless person with strong opinions?
If it is difficult to find this information, see if there is an “About” or “About Us” tab. Reading about the source can help you decide whether or not you think it is trustworthy. You can also do a side search on the website creator to learn about the person, group, or organization’s background.
More can be better
If you have doubts about the information you find on a website, check at least two other websites you trust to see whether other sources agree. This is an especially important step if you are researching a controversial topic that people feel strongly about, for example, for an argument essay or debate.
It takes practice to become comfortable with internet research, but these tips should help you find good information online with less stress and more success. Happy searching!
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