Using the Internet for Research

This is an outline for my students with links to further reading.

  1. Internet basics.
    1. Nobody is in control.
    2. The Internet is not the same as the World Wide Web.
  2. Finding Information.
    1. Subject trees, search engines and the deep web.
    2. Boolean searches.
  3. Evaluating Sources.
    1. Top level domains and URIs.
    2. Consider the source.
  4. Writing Citations.
    1. MLA Style.
    2. APA Style.

Internet basics.

There is no agency that controls the Internet. There is no central index. There are several parts, of which the World Wide Web (WWW) is just the best known.

Nobody is in control.

Various bodies are highly influential, and some agencies do things like registering domain names for a fee, there is no centralized control.

The Internet is not the same as the World Wide Web.

FTP, e-mail, newsgroups, MUDs and their relatives are also parts of the Internet. The WWW may be the fastest-growing part, but it is not the oldest.

Read Internet 101 for a basic, general introduction. Read A Basic Guide to the Internet from University at Albany Libraries for more information.

Finding Information.

You should have two goals: first, find quality sources, second, do it quickly.

Search engines, subject trees, and the deep web.

Search engines are big, automatic, and not selective. Subject trees are smaller, hand-built and may be more selective, depending on the purpose of the particular tree. The deep web includes many specialized databases, but access may be limited.

Read Conducting Research on the Internet from University at Albany Libraries. and What is the difference between a web directory and a search engine? from Yahoo!

You can find links to some subject trees and other references on the Online References page.

Boolean searches.

Different search tools may use different variations, but they all have some way of writing complex searches.

Read Boolean Searching on the Internet from University at Albany Libraries and Advanced Search Syntax at Yahoo!.

Evaluating Sources.

Whether you find information on the Internet or in the library, you must always evaluate it critically. There are some special considerations for the Internet.

Top level domains and URIs.

You can get a lot of information about a website by looking at its URI (Universal Resource Identifier)

Read the "RETRIEVING DOCUMENTS ON THE WEB: THE URL" section of Understanding the World Wide Web from University at Albany Libraries (and if you want to read something very technical, Naming and Addressing: URIs, URLs, ... from the World Wide Web Consortium).

Consider the source.

Websites exist for many purposes. Not all are realiable sources of information. Ask yourself these questions: "Does this site represent a special interest?", "Is this site promoting a product?", "Is this site well-organized?" Questions like these will help you decide how much you should rely on a website for information.

Read Evaluating Internet Resources from University at Albany Libraries.

Writing Citations.

The rule for citation of Internet sources is the same as for anything else: if it is not common knowledge or your original idea, you will need a citation.

MLA Style

Hogue, William. "Internet for Research" 30 Jun. 2002 [your access date] <http://asia.oocities.com/wm_hogue/students/useinternet.htm>.

Read MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION from Troy State University Regional Library.

APA Style

Hogue, William (2002). Internet for Research. Retrieved [today's date] from: http://asia.oocities.com/wm_hogue/students/useinternet.htm.

Read Electronic References at APAStyle.org

Final Notes

For further information see:


William Hogue, 4 December 2002 (updated)
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