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Research Process: Research & The Web

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Research and the Web

Internet users frequently rely on the World Wide Web for doing research because it contains large amounts of quality resources.

Misinformation on the Web is a problem because anyone can publish on it. Since the lack of quality control exists, it requires Internet users to filter information for quality Web sites. For example, books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, editors are used to edit and screen information before it is published.

While librarians can help users to filter misinformation, it is important for users to be able to discern when information is factual rather than opinion and other gray areas of information. Identifying the types of Web site categories can help in selecting the appropriate kind of sources and give credibility to a paper. Knowing how to identify a few categories will be invaluable for your research.

Types of Website Categories

  • Informational sites provide factual information such as reference sources, libraries, statistics, and events. These sites are frequently published by educational institutions or governmental bodies. These sites usually have edu or gov as their domains.
  • News sites primarily provide current information. Using news sources is a way of keeping abreast of some ongoing events hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Most of these sites have a com domain but can also have an org domain.
  • Advocacy sites are published by organizations to influence public opinion. Most of the organizations that publish these sites are non-profit. These types of sites usually have an org domain.
  • Business/Marketing sites are published by a commercial company primarily to market and sell products. This type of site has a com domain.
  • Personal sites are published by individuals who may be or may not be affiliated with a larger body. These sites frequently have a com or edu domain with a tilde (~), but can have another type of domain. 
  • Counterfeit sites try to disguise themselves as the authentic site. The purpose is to disseminate wrong information in many instances. Some can be developed for humor and others for bias. These sites will have any domain.

Alexander, J. E., & Tate, M. E. (1999). Web wisdom: How to evaluate and create information quality on the web. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Piper, P. S. (2000). Better read that again: Web hoaxes and misinformationSearcher, 9(8). Retrieved July 29, 2002.