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Ezra's Research Diary: Tried and True Strategies for Effective Undergraduate Research: Evaluate stuff I found using Google

This library guide is designed to help students understand the overall process of undergraduate research at Cornell.

A Few Things to Know About the Web...

Like most students, you are pressed for time. You need to find information quickly and efficiently. The natural solution: the Web. When you are searching for information online, keep in mind these points:

  • There is no quality control on the Web. Anyone can upload information and claim that it is "authoritative." 
  • Google does not search the whole Web
  • Every search engine does not return the same results

If you're not sure of the source of content on the Web, take a look at the top-level domain to get an idea. Here are a few domains you might find:

  • .com = commercial sites
  • .pro = doctors, lawyers, accountants
  • .biz = 
  • .org = nonprofit organizations
  • .edu = educational institutions
  • .gov = government agencies
  • .mil = military
  • .net = Internet service providers, which are companies that provide access to the Web; personal websites often have this top-level domain
  • .name = personal websites
  • .info = general top-level domains for individual sites, business, or organizations
  • countries (it. = Italy, kw = Kuwait)

Evaluating Credibility of a Web Resource--Video

Evaluating Web Resources

Though Web resources are often less scholarly than the resources you might find using the library databases, they are not necessarily less valid resources for academic research. In fact, they can be complementary to more scholarly, peer-reviewed resources. Furthermore, the Web is increasingly populated with documents that academics and other experts are sharing online in open access journals. (Search the Directory of Open Access Journals.) 

Here are a few questions that you might ask yourself when you are evaluating resources on the Web:

  • Is this resource presented at a level of scholarship or learning that is appropriate to the task?
  • Does this resource support the point or argument being made in the assignment, as either an example or as further evidence?
  • Does this resource add value to the assignment?
  • Does this resource present legitimate information, especially if it is factual in nature?

Two other important tools that you might use are comparison and corroboration.

  • Compare the similarities and differences in the context of 2 or more free web sites to each other and to other information formats.
  • Corroborate information found on web sites with a variety of other sources.

Ready Resources