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Boatwright Memorial Library

Selecting better information sources

Not all information sources are created equal. 

As noted in the preceding tab, the more authoritative, independent, and numerous the scholar's evidentiary sources, the stronger her argument.  In other words, we seek to defend each truth claim with authoritative sources that are unrelated to one another but nonetheless arrive at the same conclusions (which support our claim).   

But what distinguishes authoritative sources?  How can we recognize and avoid using "bad," "misleading," or "problematically biased" evidence?  The relatively recent emergence of widely accessible information resources on the Web significantly complicates this task.  

The guides linked below should help you to distinguish "better" internet resources from "worse."  Begin with Georgetown's excellent content and consult additional guides only as necessary.  

Suffice to say here that Googling your queries represents risky (and generally inefficient) academic behavior.  Always better that you stick to the UR Library's curated research guides and licensed information databases.     

Why not let me Google that for you?

Sourcing information from the "surface" or "visible" web--i.e., the layer accessible to Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and most other search engines--not only complicates the evaluation of information, but also limits the researcher's horizon of possible search results. 

Most critics agree that the "deep" or "invisible" web, which contains academic information, scientific literature, medical records, legal documents, government resources, and other protected content, is thousands of times larger than the surface web. 

Put differently, it is generally agreed that the surface web--that sliver of the internet to which search engines grant you access--represents only about 4 - 8% of the internet.  Further, this thin slice of the internet is unlikely to contain the sort of authoritative, empirically rigorous, and theoretically informed literature on which serious academic output is based.      

Photo by SIMON LEE on Unsplash


For additional information, see:

Deep Web Video (US Dept of Energy)

The Deep Web - Information Strategies for Communicators (Univ of Minn Library)

The Deep Web you don't know about (CNN Business)

Dark Web 101 (ASPJ)