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Information Literacy: Internet

A guide to information literacy for students and instructors.


A page’s URL is a good place to look for credibility.  It can often tell you the type of website you are looking at and give you a good hint to how reliable of a source the site is.

Top-Level Domains

Top-Level Domains (TLD) give a strong indicator as to what type of resource you are accessing.  While all sources should be evaluated using the CRAAP test, the TLD will give help you in your initial judgement. 

In general, academic (.edu) and government (.gov) website are more trustworthy than company (.com), network (.net), or organization (.org) sites as they can be purchased by anyone and can have an ulterior purpose to sharing information (financial, political, etc.).

TLDs can also be used to identify a site’s country of origin as in .uk for United Kingdom or .de for Germany.

Research Tips

Knowing the distinction between popular and scholarly is an important step for any student.  Using scholarly sources in your research ensures that your papers have academic merit and are backed by actual studies and work that has peer reviewed by professionals in the field.

Scholarly resources are written by experts in their particular field and are often affiliated with colleges, universities, or research centers.  They are writing for others in their field which is why articles often contain a lot of jargon or technical language.  While their appearance may be simple, the charts, graphs, and tables inside are full of great information can could support your work.  Scholarly resources also tend to be written in a serious, straightforward manner.  The purpose of these articles are to inform and educate, i.e. to share their findings with other experts in their field.  Scholarly resources tend to be very focused on a small piece of a subject and will contain references to other works or studies which can be found in their bibliography.

Popular resources are written by journalists and guest writers and are intended to be consumed by the general public.  As a result they tend to have little depth on the subject matter.  The purpose of these sources is to entertain and sell more copies of their magazines.  These articles tend to be shorter and written in a more conversational tone.  They seldom contain references to their sources and information is always second-hand.  These sources tend to look very flashy with lots of glossy photos.  These sources are also full of advertisements from other companies. 

Make sure that you know what type of information your professors want you to use as some may require ONLY scholarly resources. 

Google is a search engine that ranks the items you see based on your browsing history.  It does not product the best results based on your current search but rather what it thinks you want to see.  This is great when browsing but bad for research.  The internet can largely be edited by anyone which means that a lot of what you read (while funny) is not accurate. 

Databases contain accurate and trustworthy information-- these are subscriptions paid for by the library similar to magazine subscriptions but online to allow greater accessibility.  Many of these sources are peer reviewed and are a scholarly source of information.  That means that the information presented has been researched by experts in their field and often contains firsthand information from studies the author has done themselves.

To get a better understanding of why databases are better sources for your research, watch this video by Penfield Library 

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Searching Basics

The goal for searching is not to find the most results but rather the results that are best for your topic.  This can often include providing more detail when searching.

When doing basic keyword searches, the more descriptive you are, the more narrowed results you will get.


In Google, search for the term “pop culture”.  How many results do you get?

Next type in “pop culture references”. The results are now smaller than the initial search.

Searching for “pop culture references everyone should know” produces even fewer results.

Boolean Operators