Doing Research

A guide to more effective research

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Search Tips for Google

Try these Google search tips. Your search results will be better.

Search an exact phrase:   "green business"

Search alternate keywords:   oil sands OR tar sands

Exclude word(s) from results:   raptors -dinosaurs

Search a specific website:   site:lifehacker.com

Search government websites:   youth crime gc.ca

Learn more about searching Google.

Other Search Engines To Use

Google isn't the only search engine. Why not try one of these?

  • DogPIle (metasearch; combines search results from top search engines)
  • Bing (Microsoft's search engine)
  • DuckDuckGo (doesn't track your searches or personal information)
  • WolframAlpha (great at computing data)

And don't forget about Google's other search tools:

The Web and the Library: Which One Should I Use?

This video looks at the strengths of web resources and library resources.

The Web and the Library: Which One Should I Use?
View The Web and the Library on Youtube

Transcript

The Web and the Library: Which One Should I Use?

So you’ve been given a research assignment. Are you going to use the web or are you going to use the library? Often it isn’t one or the other – it’s both. How do you know what you should use?

Let’s look at the strengths of web resources and library resources.

You can find lots of good research material on the web. There are news and journal articles, videos, images, company reports, data, and government information. Many organizations and companies have their own websites that provide useful information. In order to use them as resources, all you need is web access. You may be able to download or save the information that you find. Be aware, however, that some material on the web may require payment. Check with the library because we may already have access to it.

Information gets added to, and subtracted from, the web every day. Remember, the web is enormous and it’s easy to get lost researching unless you have a specific search goal.

Unlike the web, the library gathers materials specifically to support your academic program. Just like on the web, you can find news and journal articles, videos, images, company reports, data, and government information, all in a convenient online format. The library also maintains a physical collection of books, DVDs, magazines, journals, and other materials. The library’s resources are different from the web because items are purchased specifically for their strong, relevant connection to your academic program. The material is selected using an evaluation process that includes your professors, subject experts, and library professionals. There is no charge for you to access library resources.

Just like the web, the library website is available 24/7, allowing you to find materials at any time. You can get relevant results quickly because the content is customized for your program and the search interface has been developed for ease of use.

If you need to use something from the library’s physical collection, you can pick it up during our open hours. Many of the library’s resources are available online at any time, such as streaming video, electronic books, and articles.

Library staff are available on-site, by phone, by email, and by chat to help you use the library’s systems efficiently. We can help with searching databases and using other electronic tools, identifying different types of resources, and choosing the best ways to find information for your assignments.

Both the web and the library offer resources that can help you with your assignments. Knowing how to use both effectively will help you succeed at Georgian.

So You Found Something on the Web: Should You Use It or Lose It?

This video teaches how to evaluate a web resource.

Getting to the Good Stuff: Accessing better web content.
View So You Found Something on the Web on Youtube

Transcript

So You Found Something on the Web: Should You Use It or Lose It?

When you’re evaluating web content, you ask many of the same questions as you do with other types of resources. Who created or published it and what expertise do they have in the subject? When was the content created? What is the focus of the content and the intended audience?

Look at the creator or publisher. With a web resource the creator may be an individual, organization, association, corporation, or government department. What qualifies them to publish in this field? Look for contact information, an “about us” page, or an author biography or educational qualifications to determine the expertise of the creator or publisher. Can you find this information? If not, you may want to reconsider using the resource.

Consider YouTube. The person who uploaded a video may not be the creator or copyright holder of the content. The same is true for sites like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The poster is often not the creator of the content. You have to determine the original creator and copyright holder in order to cite the content properly.

Consider wikis such as Wikipedia. They allow collaborative publishing and editing of content. It may not be possible to identify the original creator or editors. Sometimes the content added to an entry is deliberately biased or inaccurate. Wiki content is also likely to change because it can be edited or updated at any time.

Try to determine when the information that you’re looking at was written, published, or updated. This date may be different from the date when the website was created or updated. Even new websites can have older content. It’s up to you to determine if that content is still valid.

Identify the intent of the content. Does the creator have an obvious bias or are both sides of the question considered? Is the content based on facts or opinion? How are the conclusions supported? Is there any evidence provided, such as references to other research or links to other credible sources? Do other websites link to the one you’re evaluating? Is the intent of the content to advertise, persuade, or inform? It’s important that the web content you use is appropriate for your assignment, so consider these points carefully.

You can find other clues in the way the website is presented.

A well-designed and maintained website may be an indicator of credible content. Look for appropriate graphics, advertising, and high-quality images. The website should not have dead links, spelling or grammar errors, or typos. Sites translated into English may be an exception – consider the website’s language and country of origin. Also be aware that some sites are developed specifically as fakes or may feature humourous or satirical content.

It’s important to verify content that you find on the web by consulting other sources, both on and off the web.

If you’ve considered all of these questions, you’ve completed a thorough evaluation and can make an informed decision about including the website as a source in your research.

Getting to the Good Stuff: Accessing better web content

This video examines some of the best types of web resources you can use for your assignment.

Getting to the Good Stuff: Accessing better web content
View Getting to the Good Stuff: Accessing better web content on Youtube

Transcript

Getting to the Good Stuff: Accessing better web content

You can find lots of research-related material on the web. Information is added to and subtracted from the web every day, so it’s important to know the best types of web content for college-level research.

Let’s look at some categories of web resources that can often provide reliable information for your assignments.

Blog posts may be written by individuals or companies. They need to be reviewed carefully for bias. Blogs have typically been non-academic content but some scholars are now using them as a platform for publishing. Just make sure that you review the content carefully and ensure that it’s appropriate for your research.

Departments and agencies at the municipal, provincial, federal, and international levels of government use the web to communicate research and policies, which can be excellent resources. Often this is also the best place to find population-specific or geographically specific data.

Data sets can be found on many websites. Examine them for bias and determine where the data originally came from. Data sets may be broad or local in scope. Examples include Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data sets, international travel data, or attendance numbers for local events.

Company websites have a known bias but may give access to reports that may not be available on other platforms. You can also access news releases, contact information, advertising, and product and service information.

Organizations, institutions, and professional associations are often large and well-organized. They have a known bias but can be great sources. They are excellent at communicating professional standards and practices. They may also have job boards specific to a field. Membership may be required in order to access all of their web material.

“Open access” content is available to everyone and is typically copyright cleared for use. The information may or may not be academic. It may be found on sites like Internet Archives, Creative Commons, or discipline-specific sites. Directories of some open access content can also be found.

Social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are not academic sources. However, they may point you toward an academic source or indicate a trend.

Having a good search technique is essential to locating web material efficiently and effectively.

You may want to get familiar with one or two search engines and learn their tips and tricks. Google is the most widely used search engine and its Google Scholar platform can help you locate academic resources. But be warned: Google Scholar may ask you to pay for access to resources. The library may have those resources already in its collection, free for you to use.

Google is not the only search engine, and others may work better depending on your specific needs.

You can use web resources when it’s appropriate for your research and assignments. Just make sure that you seek out high quality information and have a specific search goal in mind.

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