Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

Using Search Engines Wisely!

Equality and Quality of Information

No one with access to the internet had ever suffered from an inability to find information. If anything, there is so much knowledge and material on the internet that we often go into “information overload”!

When we want to know something we “Google” it.

When we have a disagreement with friends we check Wikipedia.

We use the web for everything! People no longer drive around to find new restaurants. They just pull up a search engine, find out where it is, how to get there, check out the menu, check out the prices, and even find out what other people think of the food- all just by clicking a button.

Of course a search engine on the internet is a perfect place to find information for a research paper, right?!

Well not quite…

We often assume that all information is created equally.  We are wrong. Some information is biased and only presents the components of an issue that support a particular argument. Some information is incomplete; this could be because of time lapse, writer assumptions, or ignorance. And some information is simply untrue. We as people know how to filter this information, but search engine algorithms do not.

When you write a research paper, you must remember that the types of sources you use are equally as important as the words you use in the paper. Both can be used to show your effort, validate your argument, create a dialogue with your reader, and establish trust within your audience.

So how do you know if you have a good source?

Although there are no hard rules to deducing a source’s value, the following are some good rules to keep in mind:

  1. A good source usually has an author.
  2. A good source is unbiased.
  3. When using the internet, remember that the better sites will likely end in “.edu” or “.gov”.
  4. A good source has been published/peer reviewed.
  5. A good source is either of a time period (historical) or up to date (contemporary).
  6. A good source does not push an agenda.

How To Use Search Engines In Your Writing!

Although search engines may not be the best places to find sources to use in your papers, they are an EXCELLENT place to start your paper writing process.

Below are some available search engines and some tips on how to incorporate them into your paper writing process!

Google Scholar! and Google Books!- These are search engines that actually do filter for scholarly reputable sources! Feel free to incorporate some of what you find here directly into your paper! Google scholar also has a feature that tracks your citations, so once you find a piece of great material, you can hold on to it!

Google - Google is a great place to get a huge amount of information at once. It is also fantastic in that it provides you with a live feed of current events. You can find out the most up-to-date information at anytime!

Yahoo.com, Excite.com, MSN.com, AOL.com- These engines are fantastic if you have no idea what you want to write about. So often we hear “research paper” and our minds go blank with panic. These sites not only provide news feeds from all around the world, they also give you an immediate way to discover more about any interesting story you may find!

Bing.com- Bing is an off-shoot of MSN.com. It is a great place to grab some keywords and amass a large index of related information. Another great aspect of Bing is its images feature. Too often we forget that some papers are trying to explain a visual. Anything from 60’s fashion to deforestation can be enhanced with the immediate reference of a photograph!

Snap.com-  The creators of this search engine set it up so that the process of searching became a brainstorm within itself! This site is very useful in the earliest stages of the writing process for garnering keywords and narrowing a topic for your thesis. You can also add the snap-shot add on to get a glimpse of the sites of your choosing at a glance!

Search.com- This is a super search engine! Search.com combines all of the result that you would find on a Google search with those of Yahoo and Bing! You should use this engine when you want to access a lot of information as quickly as possible.

****A NOTE ON WIKIPEDIA****

When you use the sites listed above, almost all of them will produce a Wikipedia entry in the first two or three options. Unless otherwise directed by your teacher/instructor, you should never use Wikipedia as a source. This does not mean that you cannot use it as a research tool! Check out the entry and use it to gather up some keywords, or follow the links within the page to lead yourself to a narrower or more interesting topic! Also you can use the references at the bottom of each page to do further research!