Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Process: Internet Research

Conducting research is a multi-step process. This guide will teach you how to conduct effective and efficient research.

Conducting Research Using the World Wide Web (a.k.a. the Internet)

What is a search engine?

  • Search engines use computer programs called spiders and crawlers to search the internet for documents and webpages for specified keywords. Content organization and ranking varies between search engines.
  • They are free to use, but you may be required to pay a fee in order to access a website's content.

Why use a search engine for research?

  • If  you do not know a lot about a topic you might start with a search engine to look up general information about an organization, group, government agency, or personal webpages related to your topic.
  • Looking for very specific or obscure information like statistics, data, or dates.

Problems using a search engine for research:

  • Many ads and sponsors pop up
  • Information seldom comes from published sources
  • May get thousands if not millions of search results
  • Information is not organized by subjects. The top results may not be the best or authoritative.
  • Information locations and content change. Websites are added, changed, deleted, not regularly updated, or just plain outdated.
  • No review standards for content
  • Can search for free, but need to pay to read articles

What must you do if you use a search engine for research?

  • Evaluate information carefully and wade through the junk websites.
    • Information seldom comes from published sources.

When researching on the Internet one needs to be very careful about the information found on it.  Remember that anyone can put anything on the Internet.  When using the Internet remember to look for quality web sites that are authoritative and have been reviewed by experts.  When using a general search engine to look for information, oftentimes, you will find that many of the web sites do not provide the information you are looking for. 

Remember, if you are having trouble finding resources you may need to revise your keyword search terms.

Types of Web Searches

According to Andrei Broder (2002), there are three types of web searches.

  • Navigational: search for a particular website
    • Example: a person types in [youtube] in a search engine
  • Transactional: a person's intent is to complete a transaction
    • Example: looking to buy, download, or sign up for something
  • Informational: looking for information to answer a question or learn how to do something
    • These searches cover a broad topic (example: [dogs])
    • You will get thousands of results to look at.

Researchers conduct informational searches. These types of searches are the most difficult to complete because you many have to look through many of the results to answer your question.

Searching the Deep Web

Search Tips

Search Engine Tips

  • Use very narrow (specific) terms (keywords)
  • Use Boolean operators (and, or. not)
  • Use quotation marks around phrases

Search Engines: How do they work?

Using Google for Research

If you need to use a search engine for research, then here are some tips.

  • Use multiple keywords
  • Use specific or unique keywords
  • Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)
  • Use quotation marks around phrases
  • Never type words in the form of a question. (i.e. natural phrase language)
  • Go beyond the first couple of pages of results. The top results are not always the best.
  • Use the Ctrl-F or Find function to locate specific keywords

Learn How to Use Google Search

The Importance of Click Restraint

Tool to Access Paywalled Research Articles

Unpaywall is a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows users to get access to free and legal full-text research articles and papers. When you find a paywalled research article, Unpaywall runs an automatic search to look for a copy of the article. If found, you will be able to access and read it.

Wikipedia and Research

Books in the TRHS LMC