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How to do Research

Research is a process of inquiry: Asking questions, following the answers

The Internet: What's trending, what's popular

Use internet search engines to explore your topic and get ideas. Ask yourself -

  • How popular is this topic?
  • Is this topic interesting to me?
  • Are there subtopics or specifics I could focus on?
  • How recent or current is this topic?
  • What are the issues, arguments, ideas, interests?
  • What search words are people using?

Warning! At this point, don't let your Internet searching take over your time and energy. Remember, you have lots of other work to do. Search engines rank results by MONEY and POPULARITY, not by quality, credibility, reliability, authority - for that, you need library resources.

Popular Internet Search Engines

Google may be the most popular search engine, but it's not the only one - and using different search engines can give you different results!

Evaluating Websites

‚ÄčOther Clues, additional points to consider, and questions to ask:

  • Is the text well written, with good spelling and grammar? Easy to follow and understand? Well organized and intelligent?
  • Is the site full of click-bait ads?
  • What are the other articles or headlines in that source like? Is there a mix of quality? 
  • Is the language emotionally intense? Does it scream outrage, fear, anxiety?  Look for signs of excess. Do you get angry reading it?
  • Are key personalities overly praised or overly criticized?
  • Is there pressure to think, act, decide quickly? 
  • Look at the adjectives used to describe the event or action. Are they positive, negative, or neutral?
  • Are there a lot of descriptive adjectives used? or is the language more direct?
  • Does the title or the headline accurately reflect the content of the article?
  • Does the article set up an either/or choice, one bad, one good? Does it simplify everything to a yes/no dichotomy?
  • Do the claims seem plausible? possible? workable? reasonable? or excessive, extreme, unbelievable?
  • Are the claims supported with evidence, and are citations or links provided to that evidence? 
  • Follow the links, do they really support the article or are they contradictory
  • Look at the URL. Do a search for the news agency that the site seems to be- many fake news site will use versions of real news company names but with a slight variation.

Sometimes you will find articles with similar viewpoints across different sources or sites. This is normal; people who agree tend to collect the same or similar defenses of their viewpoints. However, be aware that repetition of a lie as a way to get people to believe the lie is a standard technique of propaganda. Also, if you see the exact same language, word for word, showing up in different sources, that should be a big warning flag that this information is being artificially pushed or disseminated for some nefarious motive, or, it may be a robot sending that post or tweet or article, or it might be a fake website set up to collect ad clicks. All trash.

Evaluation Checklist Forms

There are many different checklists to help you evaluate sources of information. Below are a few of the most popular. Using the same checklist to consistently evaluate all of your sources can save time and effort, and help you to compare sources. (However, there is a downside - by using the same checklist all the time, you could still miss something important that's not on that particular list.)

Be aware that some sources, like Wikipedia, may pass these initial tests but still may not be acceptable for college level academic research assignments. Check with your professor or librarian for advice and guidance. Be skeptical and be critical. You may still have concerns. If so, follow those concerns. Look for other clues, ask more pointed questions, and keep checking.