How to do online research

October 23, 2017

The internet is full of information, so where does one begin to get the facts? Whether you’re a student doing online research for a paper or just looking for general knowledge without bias or embellishment, it’s important to know how to do better research and choose reliable and factually-sound resources.

Double-Check

If you’re looking to know the date of a movie release, what country a city is in or the meaning of a political term, Wikipedia is a good place to go. The site provides quick hits of digestible information. Be wary though: Wikipedia is not professionally fact-checked and anyone can log in and change the information in an article. If you want to be sure the info you found is correct, cross-check the info with another site or follow the links in the article and check out the source documents.

Dig Deeper

It’s important to always look at what you’re reading online with a critical lens: Who wrote this article? What is their background expertise? Why did they write this article? Do they have a bias? What could they gain from their opinion in this article? For example, if you’re doing research about which home printer to purchase and come upon a glowingly positive blog review about a specific model, dig a little deeper to find out if that blogger has been paid to leave that review. Often, at the bottom of the post, the blogger will state if the review was a “paid advertisement.”

Stick to Reliable Sources

When writing a paper for school or an assignment for work, be sure you’re reading peer-reviewed journal articles and government, university or library websites. Search using Google Scholar to find academic articles. The search engine pulls up all research studies and scholarly articles which you can save to “My Library” for easy citation.

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