Anyone can publish on the web, therefore website information is often unreliable. Only a very limited amount of scholarly information is available on the open web. Therefore, use Google and sites such as Wikipedia with caution, if at all.
However, there is a lot of useful information on the websites of government departments, professional organisations and university repositories Keyword Definition An institutional repository collects and stores the intellectual output of that university so that it is freely available via the Internet such as Bolton’s UBIR . You can find reports, statistics, legislation, commentary on current events, etc. There is a list of useful sites on the Internet tab of your subject resources page or your lecturer may recommend suitable websites.
Every website has a unique link to identify it, this is the URL. The URL provides clues about the type of website you are looking at. A company's name will often form part of the URL, e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk. Less serious websites will tend to have less serious names! The domain part of the URL indicates the type of organisation, such as .co, a recognised company; .gov, a government department; or .ac, education provider. A domain name such as .com can be adopted by anyone and must be treated with caution. The last part of the URL refers to the host country, so .uk is UK based, .au is Australia, .in is India, etc.
It is important that you have the skills to evaluate the quality of any websites that you wish to use for you academic research. You must be able to distinguish between a website written by an industry expert compared to something written by a first year undergraduate, or even someone writing a hoax website!
Evaluating Internet Sources:
The characteristics of a quality website include:
- Information about the author, including contact details and professional credentials.
- A trusted domain name such as .gov or .uk.
- An indication that the information is current, so evidence of the date of creation or last revision.
- No spelling or grammatical errors.
- Professional appearance without advertisements.
- A balanced approach without an obviously biased agenda.
- Easy navigation, fast page loading and no broken links.
- Citations or references to other work that may be referred to in the website.
When using information from websites, the key questions to ask include:
- Who has written the website and what are their professional credentials?
- Does the website include contact details?
- When was the website written or last revised?
- Does it have a reliable or known domain name, such as .gov or .uk?
- Is the site well written, free from spelling and grammatical errors?
- Does the content seem biased compared to other material that you’ve read?
- Is this website international or UK based, e.g. http://www.health.gov.au?
- Is the information factual, supported by evidence?
- Is the information at an appropriate academic level?
The information above is often presented in more detail as the CRAAP test by American universities.
Have a look at the example below from The University of Rhode Island, or Google 'CRAAP' test!
Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research. Google Scholar will allow you to only access freely available information on the internet. Access the website here: http://scholar.google.co.uk/
Owl's Top Hoot
Never pay for an article online.
First use the University’s subscribed resources or order an article via the Library’s
Inter-library loans service.
You may also find access to a limited selection of freely available e-books and e-journals – see our Freely Accessible Resources on the Web [PDF] cribsheet for details.