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Purdue University Writing Lab Research and the Internet Adapted from the Purdue University Writing Lab by Dr. K

Jan 17, 2016



Research and the InternetAdapted from the Purdue University Writing Lab by Dr. K
Rationale: Welcome to “Research and the Internet.” This presentation is designed to introduce your students to methods for effectively searching the World Wide Web and evaluating the content of web pages. The twenty-four slides presented here are designed to aid the facilitator in an interactive presentation of search and evaluation strategies. This presentation is ideal for the beginning of a research unit in a composition course or an Internet research assignment.
This presentation may be supplemented with OWL handouts, including “Searching the World Wide Web” (, “Conducting a Productive Web Search” (, and “Evaluating Sources of Information” (
Directions: Each slide is activated by a single mouse click, unless otherwise noted in bold at the bottom of each notes page.
Writer and Designer: Jennifer Liethen Kunka
Contributors: Muriel Harris, Karen Bishop, Bryan Kopp, Matthew Mooney, David Neyhart, and Andrew Kunka
Developed with resources courtesy of the Purdue University Writing Lab
Grant funding courtesy of the Multimedia Instructional Development Center at Purdue University
© Copyright Purdue University, 2000.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Research and the Internet
The Internet can be a great tool for research, but finding quality web materials and using them to your advantage in your writing can be challenging.
OWL web site:
Rationale: With the development of the Internet, students have found that conducting research is much easier and more convenient than searching through library stacks. While the Internet can be a great tool for research, locating quality materials can at times be a challenge. The following slides will offer tips on how to make the most of your Internet search.
Activity: To generate discussion, the facilitator may ask students about their level of familiarity with the Internet. Also, the facilitator may ask students about the types of web sites they visit, as well as if they have their own personal web pages.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Virtually any person can publish almost anything on the Internet.
Unlike most print sources, web sources do not have to be professionally accepted and edited to be published.
Key Concepts: Books and journal articles generally go through a long process of fact-checking, editing, and revising before being published. However, anyone with a computer and Internet access can post a web site. Just because the information is published online, it does not mean it is true or reliable. The facilitator may note that web sites change frequently and sometimes disappear quickly.
Thinking about evaluation within the search process can help to make web browsing efficient and effective.
Click the mouse after the title question.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Types of web pages
Entertainment pages
Key Concepts: There are several different types of web pages on the Internet. Students researching the web tend to think that the majority of web pages are devoted to providing information. Generally, informative sites--pages that offer information for the public good without any type of overt political or sales agenda--are few and far between.
Personal web pages tend to be devoted to an individual’s interests, hobbies, family, friends, or ideological beliefs. While researching, students may find personal web pages being used as a sounding board for a political agenda. Though some sites contain well-researched and reliable information, others do not.
Political or interest group pages generally promote some type of cause or way of thinking. These sites will educate web surfers about their topics, but they may contain slanted or biased information. Their goal is to offer information in the hopes of changing a belief, gaining a vote, or earning a political contribution.
Students have the hardest time distinguishing between pages that provide information and pages that try to sell a product. For example, a web site that informs about the benefits of aromatherapy may also sell aromatherapy products. While some “infomercial” sites clearly are promoting a product, the business agenda of other sites can be more difficult to assess.
Finally, the Internet contains many entertainment-oriented web sites. These sites can range from movie news and games to cartoons and comic book sites. Still other pages are “joke” pages--pages that look like they contain serious information, but really contain elaborately fabricated content. If readers are not careful researchers, they may mistake these “joke” pages for reliable information.
Click the mouse for each type of web site.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Identify the web site
Assess the authorship, content, and purpose of the web site.
This is important because
many web sources are not checked for accuracy.
some personal sites are used to express individual opinions about issues, but not necessarily the facts.
Key Concepts: After using search engines to locate some potentially helpful web sites, your next step is to identify the site. This involves determining the authorship, content, and purpose of the web site.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Identify the web site
Sometimes the actual purpose of the web site may not be clearly articulated.
Can be difficult to separate advertising from accurate information.
Some marketing sites will offer misleading information in attempts to sell their products.
Rationale: This slide details some of the problems in identifying web sites. In particular, students often have difficulty separating advertising from information.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Identify the web site
Whenever possible, try to locate the home page.
You can often do this by eliminating some information from the end of the URL.
.org .gov
.com .net
.edu .us
.au .uk
Key Concepts: A good way to determine the authorship of a web site is to try to locate the home page. This can be done by deleting some of the information from the right side of the web address. If you used a search engine and linked to a page with a very long web address with lots of slashes, try deleting information to the right of the slashes until you get to a smaller base address.
Activity: Some information in the web address itself can clue you in to the type of web page you are viewing. The facilitator may choose to ask students what the five examples at the bottom of the slide indicate. A non-profit organization is indicated by .org. Government branches are indicated by .gov. Business sites are usually indicated by .com or .net. Educational institutions are indicated by .edu, but any student using a university web server will also have an .edu address. Official United States’ sites are indicated by .us. Sites published in the British Isles are designated .uk, while .au indicates Australian sites.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Identify the web site
Is the site affiliated with a business or university?
Does the site offer idiosyncratic information about a particular person or group?
Key Concepts: The best way to evaluate a web site is to ask yourself a list of questions. The questions presented on this slide can help a researcher determine the reliability of the information, as well as the purposes for the web site.
A web site that contains a great deal of idiosyncratic information is probably a personal page devoted to a particular group of people, club, or city.
Activity: The facilitator may ask students about the question in the upper right of the slide: “Is the site affiliated with a business or university?” Ask students if a web site affiliated with a university is more or less reliable than other types of web sites. Often web sites sponsored by a university or a particular department of a university offer some of the most current and well-researched information on the Internet. However, at a school such as Purdue, every student can publish his or her own personal web page. Web surfers need to determine if the information provided is scholarly and well-researched, or if it is published by a student clowning around and posting joke pages on the Internet.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Credibility may be compromised by purposeful misinformation or by unintentional neglect.
Locating the name of the site’s creator may be challenging.
Credentials may be missing even if the author’s name is provided.
Key Concepts: After you identify the type of web site you are viewing, you must next assess it for credibility. Information in the web site depends in large part upon the author; unfortunately, the author’s name may not be clearly listed on the web site. If the author’s name is listed, credentials may not be provided. Furthermore, because web sites do not need to be fact checked to be published, we cannot necessarily rely upon the publisher to be honest.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Who is the author of the site?
What is the authority or expertise of the individual or group?
What else comes up when you type the author’s name into a search engine?
Does the source have a political or business agenda?
Is the site sponsored by a political or business group? If so, what can you find out about that group?
Key Concepts: Again, asking yourself a list of questions is the best way to determine the credibility of the web site. Is the author listed? Credentials? If you can find the author’s name, try typing it into a search engine to see what else pops up. Is the author affiliated with a political group or a business? If so, try typing the name of the group into a search engine to see what else pops up.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Examine for credibility
Does the site provide a list of sources or a Works Cited page?
Can you locate any of the source material? How reliable is this material?
Are there links to other credible sites with additional information?
Does the site provide a link for emailing the author or webmaster?
Key Concepts: This slide provides additional questions to test the credibility of a web page. A list of sources indicates the inclusion of source material in the web content, but it is a good idea to check out some of the sources as well. Sources listed on the Works Cited page may also prove useful to the researcher. Does the web site link to other related sites? If the linked sites are not very reliable, you may question the credibility level of the author’s own site--such links show poor judgment. Also, can the author or webmaster be contacted? If so, they may be willing to answer questions about their web site or even consent to an e-mail interview!
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Who is the author?
Can the author be contacted?
What can you find out about the author?
If there is no information on the site, use a search engine. You may find the author’s homepage or other documents which mention this person.
Directory of Published Writers (
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Is there a sponsoring organization?
If there is an organization sponsoring the page, what can you learn about the organization and who they are?
(You can search the site by following links to its home page or going back to a previous level on the site.
Does the organization take responsibility for what’s on the site? Does it monitor or review what’s on the site?
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Use the web address
Look at the address for the site. Does it end in .edu, indicating that it’s an educational institution? If it has .gov, it should be fairly objective government-sponsored material.
Addresses with .org are usually non-profit organizations that are advocacy groups. (The Sierra Club is an example of an advocacy group. Their postings will conform to their goals of environmental preservation. Information posted by advocacy groups may be accurate but not entirely objective.)
If the site has a .com address, it’s most likely promoting or selling something.
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Accuracy of information
-Is there documentation to indicate the source of the information? There may be a link to the original source of the information.
-Can you tell how well researched the information is?
-Are criteria for including information offered?
-Is there a bibliography or links to other useful sites? Has the author considered information on those sites or considered viewpoints represented there?
Purdue University Writing Lab
Accuracy of information
-Is the information current? When was it updated? (You can check at the bottom for a "last revised" date and/or notice if there are numerous dead links on the site.)
-Is there any indication of bias on the site?
-Does the site have any credentials such as being rated by a reputable rating group? If you see a high rating, is that because of the soundness of the content or the quality of the design? ( An attractive page is not a reason for accepting its information as reliable.)
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Goals of the site
-What is the purpose of the site? To provide information? Advertise? Persuade?
-Are the goals of the site clearly indicated?
-Who is the intended audience?
-Is there a lot of flash and color and gimmicks to attract attention? Is that masking a lack of sound information or a blatant attempt to get you to do or buy something?
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Were there links from reputable sites? From ads?
If you found the site through a search engine, that means only that the site has the words in the topic you are researching prominently placed or used with great frequency. If you found the site by browsing through a subject directory, that may mean only that someone at that site registered it with that directory. 
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Determine depth and
scope of information
Does the material show signs of research, such as references to other sources, hyperlinks, footnotes, or a reference page?
Does the author consider opposing points of view?
How closely does the site really match the information for which you are searching?
Corroborate information whenever possible!
Key Concepts: This slide again offers a list of questions that students should ask when they review web sites for their depth and scope of information. Also, students need to allow themselves enough time to research their work. Encourage them not to just use information from the first five web sites they locate--they should find the five best web sites on their topics.
Activity: The facilitator may ask students why the consideration of opposing points of view is important in a well-researched web site. The presence of opposing viewpoints suggest that the author has carefully considered multiple viewpoints about an issue and has come to an educated conclusion about the issue.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Different from print sources:
Information covered on web pages is often presented for easy digestion and visual appeal.
Information may not provide sufficient depth or scope.
Material may be affected by marketing or political bias.
Sometimes web sources may not be the right sources for the information you need.
Key Concepts: Web researchers need to determine the depth and scope of information provided on web pages. Remember, looking at the Internet on a computer monitor is very similar in some ways to watching a giant television: web pages are generally designed to be visual appealing for quick and easy digestion by the viewer. Consequently, information may not be presented as thoroughly as it might be in a book or journal article. Also, the material included on web pages may be dramatically altered to fit the marketing or political agendas of the publishers.
Finally, the facilitator may want to stress that web sources are not always the best sources of information. Students sometimes tend to have an overreliance on the Internet, thinking that all information is out there somewhere in cyberspace. The best research students can do is to combine web sources with other print sources, including books, magazines, and academic journals, as well as interviews and questionnaires.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Assess date of information
Dates on web pages can mean:
Date the author first wrote or developed the material
Date site was first available on the Internet for public access
Date site was most recently updated, including revisions, additions, or subtractions to the material
Key Concepts: Though information on web sites may be credible, it may not be current. The date of the material may be completely omitted from the web site. To be sure you are covering all of the recent changes in the field or topic you are studying, be sure to assess the currency of your information. This is not always an easy task.
Purdue University Writing Lab
Purdue University Writing Lab
Assess date of information
Does the site clearly state a date of creation or a date for the most recent update?
More importantly, does the information cover recent changes or advances in the field or topic you are researching?
Key Concepts: Some sites will state at the bottom of the home page statements such as “Date of Creation: 6/1/99” or “Updated 7/7/99.” If dates are clearly stated in this way, you should be able to rely upon them.
However, rely upon your context clues. Does the information provided cover recent changes or advances in your topic? If not, the information is probably outdated.
Example: For example, if your topic is cloning and you located a web site that discusses cloning as if it had not taken place yet, you would know that the information was published before Dolly, Gene, and other famous cloning experiments were successfully completed.
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from UC Berkeley
Find out what other web pages link to this page.
a. Use
Type or paste the URL into's search box.
Click on "Overview".You will see, depending on the volume of traffic to the page:Traffic details."Related links" to other sites visited by people who visited the page.Sites that link to the page.Contact/ownership info for the domain name.A link to the "Wayback Machine," an archive showing what the page looked like in the past.
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Link Search
Do a link: search in Google, Yahoo!, or another search engine where this can be done:
1. Copy the URL of the page you are investigating (Ctrl+C in Windows).
2. Go to the search engine site, and type link: in the search box.
3. Paste the URL into the search box immediately following link: (no space after the colon). The pages listed all contain one or more links to the page you are looking for. If you find no links, try a shorter portion of the URL, stopping after each /.
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Use a Directory
Look up the title or publisher of the page in a reputable directory that evaluates its contents
Librarians' Index
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Look up the author's name in Google or Yahoo!INSTRUCTIONS in Google: Search the name three ways:
without quotes - Joe Webauthorb. enclosed in quotes as a phrase - "Joe Webauthor“
enclosed in quotes with * between the first and last name - "Joe * Smith" (The * can stand for any middle initial or name in Google only).
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Are these websites legit?
Welcome message from author
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