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Pro Tips for Web Searching
Just like many of you, librarians usually love websites like Google and Wikipedia. Here a just a few tips that may come in handy if you search these popular tools:
- You can limit the types of websites that you see. Sites that end in .edu (education) .org (organization) or .gov (government) give you different results than .com (commercial)
- In Google, try searching site:.edu sphagnum what do you notice?
- There are terrific and terrible entries in Wikipedia. If you look up a genus like sphagnum, check out all the references. Wikipedia is most useful for getting a basic understanding, finding out some good key words, and then going on to find some really authoritative articles!
Information is everywhere so the real skill lies in weeding out the "good" info from the "bad" info. An easy way to begin this process is to do a CRAAP test
- When was the website created? When was it last updated? If you are looking at a webpage on genetic engineering from the 1960's, you might not be at a good place.
- Are there accurate references (formal or informal) provided? Is this a blogger's opinion? Opinion pieces are not scientific.
- Who is the author of the page? Are they part of a larger network? Does the author have credentials in the same/similar field? People with PhD's in English Lit don't have the right credentials to write peer-reviewed journal articles about particle physics.
- Do the facts and figures make sense? Can you find similar conclusions/statements in your other search results? Is the work sloppy and unprofessional?
- Why does the site exist? Are they trying to sell a product or make money somehow? Are other viewpoints presented? What does the domain (.edu, .gov, etc.) tell you? Does it try to get you to contribute money to something?
Put all of these evaluation criteria together to determine the worthiness of a site. Every time you visit a website, think of CRAAP