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It may be tempting to think....Isn't everything on the internet? Can't I just use Google and Wikipedia for my research?
While Google, Wikipedia, and other internet sources can be useful, you don't want to rely on them for your research. Why not?
Not everything is openly accessible on the internet. The UMD Library subscribes to and purchases high quality resources that are not available on the internet.
Information overload: using a search engine, like Google, often means that you get thousands or millions of results. Library databases are organized in such a way that the results are more manageable. This allows you to find the best resources for your topic quickly.
Authority & accuracy: keep in mind that anyone can create or edit an entry in Wikipedia. Anyone can create a website. How will you know if the author is an expert? How will you verify the information?
Your professors want to see high quality, scholarly sources cited in your papers. Impress them by using library resources!
Is it ever okay to use Google or Wikipedia?
If you need background information about a topic before you research it, looking in a place like Wikipedia can be helpful. You can also find background information and overviews of various topics by using online encyclopedias at the UMD Library.
Think of internet resources as a starting point, but NEVER a stopping point. Always go beyond Wikipedia!
When evaluating sources, ask yourself these critical questions:
Who wrote this source?
Do they have any relevant expertise, credentials, or experience?
Do they have connections to groups/interests that might indicate bias? Look for potential conflicts of interest and remember that expertise ≠ bias.
Point of view:
What is the author’s viewpoint on this topic?
How does it relate to your point of view?
What audience(s) is this article intended for?
What evidence does the author use to support their viewpoint (e.g. research data, interviews with experts, opinions, anecodotes)?
Is it convincing?
What is missing from this source (e.g. perspectives, data, background information)?
What kinds of additional information would be helpful to have in order to learn more about this topic?
How will you use this source in your research? (e.g., find links to more sources, get background information, make a counterargument, use to support your arguments)