Skip to main content

English 1113: Composition I: Home

Finding online resources

General search tips

  • Keep your search terms precise and direct. The more specific you can be, the better. Instead of just searching for "vaccines," for instance, add some more terms that will help focus your topic more, like, "vaccines infants united states" or "vaccines measles."
  • Use quotation marks to find a specific phrase. Searching for "genetically modified organisms" is going to find that exact phrase on the sites it looks through, hopefully getting you to better search results.
  • Search in more than just Google. Yes, it's the most well-known and most popular, but that doesn't mean it has everything. Try a variety of places, including something like DuckDuckGo, which doesn't track data the way Google does, and often has different results at the top of the list.

Finding specific resources types

  • Newspapers & magazines: You can always start by going to the websites for known publications, like The Wall Street Journal or Time. What if the website says you have to have a subscription? Simply search for the publication title ("New York Times") or article title in the library's online search system.
  • Blogs: Add the word "blog" as part of your search terms while using something like Google to help the system know that you're looking for that particular kind of web page. For example, you could search "flint water crisis blog" (without the quotation marks).
  • Podcasts: Like finding blogs, one of the best places to start is to find the podcast pages for major news organizations. Places like Slate, NPR, and The New York Times will host regular podcasts. You can also find podcasts through apps like Spotify or iTunes.  Other options to find podcasts include adding "podcast" as a search term along with keywords related to your topic.

Evaluating online information

When you need to evaluate something you find online, whether it is a news story, social media post, news story, blog, or something else, just remember: SIFT.

Stop

  • When you first hit a page or post--STOP.
  • Ask yourself: Do you know the person who posted/shared? Do you recognize the site where the information is being found?
  • What is reputation of that person and/or site?

Investigate the source

  • You should know who has written/posted/shared/researched that information before you even engage with it. If you’re reading research by a Nobel prize-winning scientist, you’ll want to know that. If you’re watching a video about the benefits of eating pasta that was made by Barilla pasta company, you should know that too!
  • Ask yourself: What is the source and what is their agenda?

Find trusted coverage

  • More important than where information is posted is verifying how true it is or not.
  • Go to a news source or website that you know and trust, or that has a good reputation, and look for more information about your topic.
  • Ask yourself: Is there a consensus? Is there more in-depth coverage somewhere else? What is the history of the claim/issue? What is the context?

Trace media and quotes back to their original context

  • Often, things we see on the internet have been stripped from their original context: a cropped photo, a snipped video, a small piece of a larger quote.
  • Trace the claim, quote, media, etc., back to the original context to get an idea of whether it is being accurately presented.
  • Use Twitter, Google Images, Youtube, and others to track original pieces of media to compare to what you found.

This content is derived from SIFT: The Four Moves by Mike Caulfield and is licensed under CC-BY 4.0