Why use websites?
Websites are a great way to find information as they are easily accessible and cover a huge range of resources from all over the world, from official government documents to informal online discussions. Websites can often provide the most up-to-date information that you may not find in print. They are not as well organised as library catalogues and databases, so it's important to know how to search them effectively, or you may be overwhelmed with a large amount of irrelevant information. As anyone can create a website, its very important to evaluate any information you find
There are different ways to search for information on the web. The most common way is to use a search engine such as Google. Be aware that search engines search an enormous number of websites so you may end up with a huge number of results. They also rank your search results according to their own criteria - not necessarily how relevant they are to your search. Think carefully about the keywords that you use in your search and be prepared to try alternatives.
TIP: Try selecting "Advanced search" options to help refine your search and retrieve more useful websites
You can also search the web using an information gateway. These have been developed to help you find 'quality' websites that have been pre-selected and evaluated by experts. They are often searchable by subject area. One example of a popular and easy to use gateway is Intute.
Google Scholar is Google's free search engine for scholarly works. It provides an easy way to perform a quick, broad search across many sources and types of scholarly work including journal articles (more information from Google).
When using Scholar on campus links will appear to the right of search results where full text is available. There will be a direct link to the journal article if it is available through a CCCU subscription or freely available on the web. You will also see a ‘CCCU Full Text’ option, which will link to the journal article via LibrarySearch if the library has a subscription to it.
If you are off-campus, then you can configure Google Scholar to include links to items available from Canterbury Christ Church library by clicking on the link to Settings/Library links. Type "Canterbury Christ Church" into the box and tick the option that appears below. You will see the ‘CCCU Full Text’ link whenever full text is available through the library. Note that you may be prompted to log-in to view the full-text of articles that you find this way.
Be aware that Google has not made it clear exactly which information sources are included in Google Scholar - do not rely on this as your only search source.
Evaluating information from websites
It is very important that you evaluate any information you find on websites as, unlike other library sources, there is no academic quality control. Anybody can publish what they like on the web and it is not checked for accuracy. For example anybody can contribute to Wikipedia, which is a popular source of information, but is not necessarily a reliable academic source.
Before you decide to use information that you've found on the web, you need to consider important issues like accuracy, coverage, currency, objectivity and authority. Keep these questions in mind:
- Who wrote or produced the web page? Is there any information about the author (or organisation) which would suggest they are likely to be an authority in the subject area?
- Why do you think the web page has been written? Is the page likely to contain information that might be biased?
- When was the information on the page last updated? Can you find a date?
- Does the information contained on the website fit in with what you already know about the subject area?
- Is it at an appropriate level for higher education study?