Here is an excellent guide prepared by our History department:
The internet has some great resources however, it also has some problems. There are a lot of sites that are not reliable and there is just too much information on there! Below are some hints and tips to help guide you.
It can be useful to use search engines like ‘google’ to look for things. However, there are some useful tricks to getting the best from your searches.
Trick One – Make a list of key words for your topic to use in a search engine. If you are researching Indian Reservations you could use things like: Indian; Reservation; The USA; dates like 1867; the names of tribes like Sioux and, treaties. Don’t type a whole sentence in!
Trick Two – If your search doesn’t bring much up the first time around try changing the words in the search box slightly and see if that helps. Instead of Sioux, Reservation, USA try Indian, Reservation, USA or Indian, Reservation, 1860.
Trick Three – You may want to look for information on a particular website like the BBC but you can’t find it. You can use search engines to do this and it sometimes works better. Using key words type what you want into the search box and see what comes up. For example, you could search for Indian, Reservation, BBC.
Sorting out the Rubbish
Not all websites are useful or reliable and you need to be able to choose well. There are some general rules.
- Dedicated history sites are usually quite reliable like Spartacus Educational, BBC History or U.S. History. Other good sites can include national archives, government sites and TV channels which produce history programmes. Try to check this before using the information.
- Other websites that have ac, edu or org in the title can be more reliable so look for this.
- Read the information and decide if it matches with what you already know. You can usually tell when information is either very biased or written in an unreliable way.
- Watch for adverts. If there are a lot of ads and pop-ups on the site then it may not be that reliable.
- Look for the author. Quite often you will see something at the top of the page like ‘Contact Us’, ‘About us’ or ‘The Author’. Click on it and see what they say. If they tell you about themselves and it sounds like they have some experience in the topic then the information is probably ok.
Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to use a website and find the information you want. Even though you know it’s on there!
- Look for a search box and remember to use key words when searching.
- Using headings can also be useful. Look at the top or side of the webpage and you will often find headings to click on.
- Adding websites to favourites can be a good way of keeping track of useful webpages you have found. Use the toolbar at the top to do this.