The Internet is full of information. With just a few clicks, anyone can find out practically anything. The Internet has revolutionized research and made the lives of students, writers, and curious individuals a little easier. Unfortunately, the Internet is filled with at least as much misinformation as real information. Because publishing online is very easy, some people publish some rather questionable information. Despite this unfortunate fact, Internet research can still be useful, but researchers do need to be careful.
Before you begin your Internet research, you should determine why you are researching something. Are you just curious? Or are you going to use the information in an article or school paper? If you are just curious, read whatever sources you find. You should, however, take the information with a grain of salt. If something sounds unrealistic, it probably is. Remember, you should not believe everything you read, but that does not mean that reading is not worthwhile. Just use your own judgment.
If you are planning to write an article or school paper, use respectable sources. Look for organizations that you know and trust, rather than obscure web pages that you have never heard of before. Major encyclopedias, national news websites, government websites, and online versions of respected magazines are all good sources of information.
Online academic databases, which contain papers previously published in various academic magazines, are very useful. Unfortunately, use of these databases is generally highly restricted. Many universities subscribe to online academic databases that their students can use. If you are not currently a student, there are some databases to which you can subscribe for a fee. ProQuest, for example, offers The XanEdu™ ReSearch Engines for individuals who want to search reliable, scholarly publications.
When using Internet sources, especially if the sources are unknown, be sure to double check your facts. If you find something from an obscure website but you think it’s valid, search for the same information from another website. However, be aware that doubling checking information is not foolproof. It is possible that the websites you are looking at all got the wrong information from the same source. Therefore, it is best to use reliable sources.
If you are using a source that cites another source, look for the original source. Many websites cite information from studies that are available online. By reading the original information, you will eliminate the chance of using somebody else’s bad interpretations and careless errors. You might also discover more useful information.
Maintain high writing and research standards by always citing your sources. This way, you avoid plagiarism. You also provide your readers with a way to double check your information. Different publications and institutions use different conventions for citing Internet sources, but the name of the organization or individual responsible for the information as well as the website should be included.
The Internet does make research easier, but individuals are still responsible for verifying facts. Use common sense and double check your facts. If you are going to use your research for a paper, be extra cautious about the sources that you use.