There is a wealth of information online, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is all good or reliable. When you try to do effective internet research, there are a few basic points to remember.
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Many academic institutions don’t allow students to cite from Wikipedia. That’s because a lot of the information contained in it is unreliable. Check with your educational establishment to find out if quotes and references from Wikipedia are allowed. You will find that it is stated on Wikipedia, that it isn’t a reliable source for students doing academic writing. The site is so vast that editors can’t check all the information presented in it.
Wikipedia does have its uses when doing internet research, however. At the end of each article there is a list of sources, some with links. You can copy paste others with no links into your search engine box to find the source material used. This means that some of the work you need to do has been done for you; so there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel.
A quick point to make here, is that other wiki sites also sometimes contain somewhat dubious information, so it is best to steer well clear of these too.
The problem with all these sites is that users can change the information contained in posts. The people who give the information, or change what was originally written, may not be reliable because they aren’t experts. When you write an academic paper make sure you only quote experts, not run-of-the-mill amateur bloggers.
It isn’t a good idea to simply rely on one source when you are doing internet research. The great thing about the internet is that it has scholarly articles and journals as well as quality news articles. There are materials to download that can assist you in your research. However, exercise your critical thinking to decide if the materials are good or bad. Also, you should only use sources that are useful for your immediate writing project.
When looking at newspaper articles, avoid the tabloid press. For example, a quote from Britain’s daily newspaper ‘The Sun’ would not be suitable for inclusion in an academic piece of writing. Instead quote from the Times and the Guardian which often give different opinions and slants on world news.
Visit a library to find magazines that you would need to take out a subscription to if you wanted to read them online. Internet research is valuable, but don’t totally ignore printed sources of information.
You can find sources at the end of academic articles (and other reputable ones), which will help you widen your research.
No one can be expected to get superb results every time., and beginners need to hone their internet research skills until they become more proficient.
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