Generally the Internet can be a great place for conducting research. The fact is it’s there at your fingertips anytime you might want it and you don’t even have to leave the house to access it. But there can also be some dangers about using the Internet to find information.
The fact is, as anybody can run a web page, the information they provide may not be the most up-to-date. It may not even be accurate. But there are some steps you can take to make sure the information you find is accurate and that it’s of value to you in your research.
The first thing you should do is use quality sources for information. Take a good look at the page you’re looking at. What is the professionalism of that page? If it’s considered with a huge amount of advertising, it may be that the person writing the page is much more interested in selling you a product or service than they are about providing you with unbiased information. If the standard of English on the page isn’t that good, it may also be that you can’t rely on the accuracy of it. Because if that person cannot write English very well, then who knows how well they’ll have written what you’re reading as part of your research. So stick with quality sources; either sites that you know about, or sites where you can look at them and you can see a level of professionalism already inherent within that site.
The second thing you can do is to try to rationalize the information across multiple sites. The good thing is, if you find the same information on one site, it may not be that accurate. But if you can find that information across two, three, four or even more sites, then there’s a good chance that it is accurate. So don’t always make a decision based solely on the first site that you see. If you want to make sure the information is accurate — whether this is for school work, study, or for your own personal research — then try and check this across multiple sites and confirm that these are all the same. If you do this, you can be much happier that this is accurate information, as it’s been reported in more than one place.
The final thing to do — and this applies particularly when you’re doing any form of academic work, whether it’s a college paper or term paper or some school work — is to look for the reference list at the end of an article. For instance, if you’re using Wikipedia and you scroll down to the end of an article, you should find all the sources that the authors of the Wikipedia article have used to make sure their information is correct. The good news is that you can choose to go and check these sources because you have links to them, or you can choose to take the view that, because these sources are there, there’s a good chance the information has already been check out by the multiple levels of Wikipedia editors. The same is true of other information, particularly when published in an academic sense, but even a news item which quotes its sources is giving a lot more evidence that the research you find on the site is valid. So always look for references to help you to check for the accuracy of information.
Generally, then, when you want to confirm that information on the Internet is accurate and it can be a valid source for research, there are three things you should do. First of all, find a site which is reliable. It may be one that you have heard of before, or it may be one where it’s clearly well-recognized and respected on the Internet. Secondly, try and verify the information in multiple places to make sure it’s accurate. And finally, see what references there are for the information within the source you’re looking at. If there are references, then there is a good chance this information has come from valued and respected sources.
By putting these three factors together, you should be able to make sure your information is accurate in far less time than would otherwise be possible.