Google can be a very helpful tool, but it can also bring back an overwhelming amount of information. It can be difficult and time consuming to separate the good information from the lousy information.
To solve this problem, control Google. Search specific websites or types of websites using the 'site:' command.
For instance, if I want to learn if the government in the U.S. is prepared for a zombie outbreak, I can do this search in Google: zombies site:.gov
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There are millions of websites out there on the World Wide Web. How do you know if it's a quality web site?
1. Authorship. Who wrote or created the content? Look for an "About" link to learn the answer to this.
2. Timeliness. When was it created? Some information is stable, like what countries were part of the Axis during World War II. Other information isn't, like the current economic or political statuses of many countries. So, while a website from the National Archives and Records Administration in 2005 about World War II has relevant information, a website about the government of Tunisia from 2008 isn't going to be correct.
3. Bias. Even without reading the "About" section of the site, can you detect a particular bias? Is the site encouraging you to believe something by using emotional language? Does it present an opinion or does it present facts?
4. References. Does the site present references or links to the sources of information it presents? Can you locate these sources so that you can read and interpret the information yourself?
Some websites seem to have all of the answers. Need to know how to French braid hair or train your dog? You can usually find a web site that provides quick and easy steps to accomplish the task. But are they reliable sources of information and are they appropriate for academic purposes? Maybe not. "Content farms" are websites that actually exist to host ads, and they get site visits by posting "articles" written in response to popular web searches. Read more about content farms below: