Blogs

A simple guide to online research

As a general rule of thumb, teachers only trust information that comes from reliable sources

So you have an assignment to complete and you've fired up the computer to do some research. Now you just need to know where to find the information you require and how to determine whether it's credible. What's the best way to go about things?

Searching

Take some time to think about exactly what is the information you're after so that you can construct specific search terms. Googling "Repairing rack and pinion steering in Australian cars built prior to 2000" will provide more focused search results than "Fixing steering problems", for example.

Wikipedia has become the world's default online encyclopedia. The information it provides is usually – but not always – accurate, meaning teachers will not accept it as a credible source. Despite this, Wikipedia will usually give you a good overview of a subject, which will help you work out exactly what you should be searching for. Also, the ‘References' and ‘External links' sections at the bottom of the page will often have lots of helpful links to newspaper articles, academic papers, books and websites.

Credible sources

Wikipedia pages, personal blogs, YouTube videos and TED talks can all provide you with interesting information, but since their credibility can't be guaranteed, you usually can't cite any of those sources in an assignment.

As a general rule of thumb, teachers only trust information that comes from reliable sources, most often government organisations or educational institutions. So, for example, if you're doing an assignment on the number of car crashes caused by faulty rack and pinion steering mechanisms, you would typically need to cite figures from a government department such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, or a journal article or book written by an expert (usually an academic).

One final tip: doing online research is more involved than you may initially think, so schedule plenty of time to collect the information you need and evaluate how much faith you can put in what you find.