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Internet Research

You can download a more detailed version of our Internet research guide here:

Internet research

We also have a separate pdf guide to evaluating websites: Evaluating websites

Internet research: where to begin

Choose your keywords
For example, you have been asked to find information on the effect of smoking on health.
The two key words are smoking and health.
These are the words you will use to search for information on the Internet. You don‟t need to write a whole sentence or include words like “the‟.

Think of some alternative keywords.
For example, you have been asked to find out about equality for women in the uniformed services.
Your keywords would be equality, women, uniformed services.
You could also try “gender‟ instead of women and you could try “army‟, “police service‟ or “fire service‟ instead of uniformed services.

Place phrases in quotation marks
For example, you have been asked to search for information on the great wall of China.
If you place the phrase in quotation marks like this: “great wall of China”
your search results will be more accurate as only sites that mention the whole phrase will appear.

Check your spelling
Make sure you have spelled your keywords correctly, especially if you are searching for information on a person or a place.

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Choosing your search engine

There are lots of search engines to choose from. The big four general search engines are:
Google
You can improve your Google search technique – click on “About Google‟ at the bottom of the screen and then “Web search features‟ to read about ways of making your searches more effective.
Ask
(Also known as Ask Jeeves)
Bing
Click on the “only from United Kingdom‟ button to restrict your results to pages from this country.
Yahoo

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Using a search engine

You will see a box where you type your keywords and a “Search‟ button which you click on to start the search.
There are billions of pages published on the Internet. A search engine will trawl through them and produce a list of results with the highest results usually being the most relevant.
Read the words under the result title, they will help you decide if the site is going to be useful or not. If you are not satisfied with the results try adding more or alternative keywords.

General tips

  • Be clear about what you are searching for. The search engine doesn‟t know your assignment! It just looks for your search terms.
  • Newletters, blogs and RSS feeds are a good way to keep up to date.
  • Many websites have help pages. Check these tips for searching.
  • Lost your way? Click on the History button on your browser to see which sites you have visited.
  • On a long Webpage use Find to get to the relevant words quickly.
  • Use more than one source to check facts and get different opinions. If you use information from a website keep a record of the url.
  • As you search, ask yourself questions to help you keep focused. Decide how much information you need. At some point you need to stop searching and start writing.

Top tip
The Library has a Web Links section. Visit your subject in this section to see a list of websites we have chosen because they are useful for your course.

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Evaluating Websites

This guide will give you some tools for determining whether a website is a reliable source of information or not:

Click here to see a pdf version of ‘evaluating websites.’

Beware!

Anyone can put information on the Internet.
Before you use information given on a website ask yourself the following questions:

Who is the author?

The author might, for example, be a government, an individual, a company or an organisation.
Look at the web address for clues.
    For example:
      .ac or .edu represents an academic or educational organisation
          (eg. Brooklands College http://www.brooklands.ac.uk)
      .co or .com represents a company
          (eg. Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk)
      .gov represents a government site
          (eg. The Home Office http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk)
      .org represents an organisation
          (eg. Oxfam http://www.oxfam.org.uk)
Ask yourself whether you can trust the author. Some sites will have an
‘About us’ page which clearly states the purpose of the site’s author.

Is the author fair and objective?

If the author is putting across one point of view you may need
to go to another site to get a balanced view.

Still not sure if you trust the site?

Ask yourself – Is the site accurate, reliable and up-to-date?

  • Is the Grammar and spelling correct?
  • Has the site been updated recently and is the information on it up-to-date and accurate?
  • Is the site well constructed? Do the links work? You will probably feel less inclined to trust a badly constructed site.

Is the site at the right level?

If the site was produced as a primary school project the information might be accurate, but not detailed enough.
A university research project on a subject might be too detailed. Look for a site that contains information at the right level for you.

Want to know more?

BBC webwise
    The BBC webwise site covers everything from getting connected, to blogging and sharing information online.

 

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Specialist resources

There is much useful information on the Internet which you won‟t find by using a search engine. The Library pays a subscription to receive some of these resources. You can use them for free by visiting the e-library section of our website.
You will find:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Journal articles
  • News film clips
  • Information on issues such as animal rights, drugs, crime.
  • e-books
  • Encyclopedias

 

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