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Online Learning Guide

Limitations With Google Search (And Other Search Engines)

1. Cannot filter for scholarly resources.

2. Selections generally start with paid ads.

3. Uses algorithm that includes key words, frequency of key words, past search history, etc. Therefore the first listed are the most popular and not necessarily the best resources.

Evaluating Online Sources

If you choose to use online articles, you need to investigate to make sure the information is reliable. Use the skills in the following videos to do your investigation.

Appropriate Uses for Wikipedia

Main site: Wikipedia

How it should be used:

  • Gather background information
  • Generate search terms (key words or synonyms)
  • Find other resources in bibliography/reference section

Cannot be sited because:

  • Currency (No guarantee when specific information has been updated)
  • Authority (Authors cannot be identified; not necessarily experts)
  • Point of View (Do not know if author has bias)

More Advice for Evaluating Online Resources

Look at the URL or Web address. Does it sound professional? Does it have a catchy or humorous title? Be careful of sites whose URL sounds too unprofessional.  Look at these elements to evaluate web sources.

Domain:  Who or what is sponsoring the Web site?  Take a look at the table below to explore the differences in web domains.

.com – a commercial site. Be sure to examine closely, its goal is to sell you something.

.gov – United States Government sponsored web site. The information may not always be objective, but all government documents and publications are freely available online.

Examples: or

.edu – sponsored by a college or university, these can be especially helpful. However, you should be cautious of personal sites of students or faculty, usually containing a ~ or % in the URL, these sites may simply reflect the opinion of the individual.

University sponsored site:
Personal site:

.org – sponsored by a non-profit organization. These can provide a wealth of information about an organization as well as some hot topic issues. Be wary of any kind of bias the organization may have. Check the mission statement or the “About us” link from the web site for more information.

Good Example:
Bad Example: