Don't have a topic idea yet? Or have a general area of interest and want to browse your way to a more specific issue or discussion within it? Need keywords to use to find in the general Library Try these easy-to-use database resources:
Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia - Nothing like a general encyclopedia to find a way to find, verify, and cite facts you are used to "googling." Learn to recognize what trustworthy web articles look like. Find associations and connections to help you explore your topic and find keywords to search further. Citations included!
Gale Virtual Reference Library - A bookshelf of virtual reference books in a wide variety of subject areas from business to biology and history to health that you might enjoy if you liked exploring the Opposing Viewpoints database. Citations included!
Oxford Reference - A one stop shop for your reference needs -- English and bilingual dictionaries, timelines, quotations, overviews, and reference sources for all subjects. A great place to browse your subject area if you are looking for a topic, to get cited definitions for special terms, and to get background and language (keywords) to use when you look for your scholarly articles or primary sources. Citations included!
PAARC can help you remember the evaluation techniques you should use when determining whether or not to use an Internet source for research. If you use these techniques, your research will be as easy as a "walk in the PAARC" (Yes, I know, LAME!) PAARC stands for:
PURPOSE: The reason the information exists
ACCURACY: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content
AUTHORITY: The source of the information
Tips for Checking Authority
Who Links to the Site?
One way to judge whether the information on a site is reasonably trustworthy is to see who else believes in the site enough to place a link back to it on their own web site or to refer their viewers to the site. To check who is referring others to this site by linking to it, go into Google and type in "link:thesiteurl". The results list that comes up will show you who has linked to this site from their own site. By looking down the result list, you can quickly see if education, library, or government sites are linking to the site in question. Or perhaps you see only bloggers, activist groups and such linking to it. That should tell you if other authorities trust the site.
Look for Information on the Site Itself
Check the web site itself (About Us or at the bottom of the home page) for the name of the publisher or author. If it is an article within a web site, look for an author's name at the top or bottom of the article. If there is an author's name, "google" the name to see if you can find out more about the person and who they are, what their credentials are, and who they may work for or be connected with.
Check the URL
A URL ending means different things:
.edu = educational site (may be an elementary school or a university)
.gov = US government site
.org = non-profit organization (may be trustworthy such as the United Nations or biased such as a political advocacy group)
.com = commercial site -- even if the site looks reputable it is there to sell something (especially beware of pharmaceutical or medical sites with lofty sounding research but that have a .com site)
RELEVANCE: The importance of the information for your needs
Tips for checking Relevance
Using the 'who links to the site' tip as found on the authority tab may help you identify the intended audience of this information.