Tips for Searching Online

Searching for Websites

Of course you can do a simple Google search by keyword but be certain to evaluate websites according to the information below. For more reliable results, you might try a Google Scholar search; more information on this is included at the end of this page. Some websites are cataloged in the library catalog. These sites have been evaluated by a librarian before being included in the library catalog. Do a keyword search (women or gender) and select the Format “Electronic Resources” to refine your search. You can also try a search of evaluated websites at Internet Public Library (IPL) and/or WorldCat. Search WorldCat and limit to “Internet Resources.” Click on “Advanced Search,” and on the resultant Advanced Search page, select “Internet Resources” in the “limit type to” section, then run a search by putting search terms in the search box(es).

Evaluating Websites

You must be very careful when deciding which websites to use in your research. Anyone can put anything on the internet and it is up to you to determine if a site is trustworthy. You should look at the currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, and purpose of the online resource. These factors are explained in more detail below and can be remembered by using the acronym CRAAP. It is wise to use the CRAAP test to evaluate all resources but especiaally those which you find online.

Currency: The timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: The source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Set up an Alert Using Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research. See Google Scholar’s Search Tips page for more information.

Run your search in Google Scholar (be sure to use this link or access Google Scholar from the UW Libraries website so that Find-It will be enabled), and then click on the envelope icon below the search box. Add your email address (if you are already logged in to Google, it will send to your Google email account — log out first if you want to use a different email address), and click on “Create Alert.” There is also a “regular Google” alert service.