The Web is a good source for information about local issues, events and controversies. But when using Web sources be very selective and critically evaluate the source and the organization sponsoring it.
Strategies for Focusing Your Web Searches
To increase the degree of credibility and reliability of the sources you may find in an open Web search, one strategy is to limit your searches to particular producers of information on the Web by specifying the Domain type in your search.
For example, let's say you want to study and write about the issue of homeless veterans in Arizona and you want to find out what local governments (and maybe the federal government also) are doing to address the issue. You can enter the following Google search:
homeless veterans Arizona site:.gov
The ONLY Web sites and sources you will retrieve from the search above will be from governmental offices and organizations. State and local government offices and organizations can give you a wealth of information about how they are addressing and managing issues and problems at the local level.
To take the example further, this is the first entry in our search:
This is from the statewide Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and contains information about Arizona's efforts to address homelessness among veterans in Arizona. You can further refine your searches to specific locations within your state also, for example searching for "homeless veterans Maricopa County site:.gov."
Two other useful Domains or Sites to search on the Web are .org and .edu.
site:.org will return sites from organizations, which are often very good source of information on all kinds of issues. When using information from an organization make sure you identify:
- The purpose of the organization (and a clear statement of the purpose);
- The sponsors of the organization, for example a political party or trade group;
- Who the officers of the organization are;
- The sources of information they use in their reports and statements;
- The tone and rhetoric the organization uses.
In your research report be prepared to tell your readers about the organization's political slant, or political or social purpose! It is important to YOUR credibility as a thoughtful and impartial researcher. For example, if citing and using a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (an obvious example for students in the U.S.), say something like, "According to a study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, a leading liberal organization devoted to civil rights, ..."
site:.edu will return sites from educational institutions, mostly from colleges and universities but also from any educational level. Information from educational sites are generally reliable but not always, so make sure, for example, that you are not using another student's ENG 102 essay as a source in your research.