Top tips

Try not to rely on one search tool

Think about how you use search engines - advanced search tools can save you time

Not all information is free

Don’t rely too heavily on one source or type of information

Make sure you evaluate all information

There's nothing wrong with Google – it's a really good resource. However, it may not be the best search tool for the job, particularly if you are looking for research papers, doing a literature review or looking for specialised commercial/business information.

The Library subscribes to many bibliographic databases (databases giving details of published documents); these are very good sources for research papers. Most of these databases offer several advantages over Google or Google Scholar:

  • Use flexible search interfaces for more options than Google’s basic search interface
  • Revisit and adapt previous searches from your current session (no more back button!)
  • Store search strategies or item records at the end of a session
  • Set up alerts for newly published items
  • Bulk-export item reference details into reference management software for use when writing up

If you want to know more about the databases we have for your subject area, visit Subject support and select your department. You can also ask your Subject Librarian for advice.

Commercial/Business information

Much commercial/Business information is so specialised or expensive to produce that it is stored in databases. Most of this content is invisible to search engines so Google will not find it. The good news is that the Library subscribes to over 50 of these specialist databases. For more information see Business.

Internet sources can be great for current awareness.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is made up of crowdsourced information. Because it has many contributors, it can contain errors, but these are often quickly noticed and rectified.

There is a difference between using Wikipedia and completely relying on it. You will need to demonstrate that you have used a range of sources and information. Relying too heavily on one type of source, in this case internet sources, can be risky. Make sure that you know your lecturers' views on Wikipedia; some may be in favour and others might not view it as an academic source at all.

Many articles will give you a borad overview of your subject area ,but be careful: good quality specific research can require further searching.

Some students find a Wikipedia page and consider their research complete, but this is not usually enough. Your lecturers want you to provide evidence that you have researched the subject thoroughly.

Google

The verb "to Google" has become common to many people's vocabulary over the past decade but it’s important to remember that Google is a search engine. It can miss things and it makes money from advertising, so is not always an impartial information provider, see What’s wrong with Google?

The information and web pages returned are dependent on the search terms you enter so think carefully about your search strategy and the keywords you use. Remember that you are searching the World Wide Web and that terms that make sense in a British context may hold a different meaning in another country.

Google's advanced search features can help you find better quality information.

Remember also that there are other search engines out there!

Can I use it?

To help you to assess the quality of a source or piece of information, take a look at What is good information?. When using internet sources, remember to cite and reference information correctly and observe any copyright restrictions.