A Student's Guide to Research with the WWW

This is a tutorial guide to conducting research on the World Wide Web for first year Composition and Rhetoric students. I have synthesized work on research methods and page evaluation to provide students with a framework for managing their own Web research.


This guide will help you explore the resources of the World Wide Web for your research, and introduce you to some strategies for evaluating Web sites for authority and reliability.

The Web presents a host of new challenges to researchers accustomed to the more rational world of the library stacks. Web sites are not organized like books in a library, and it would be impossible to catalog all of its sites. No one, after all, owns the Internet, there is no central organization in place to enforce quality or editorial standards. Within the Web pages themselves, finished prose mixes freely with conversation, art with advertising, and careful research with reckless hearsay. Information is often published on the Web which no serious publisher would touch. For this reason, Web sites are considered less authoritative research sources than printed articles and books.

Yet, the flexibility of Web presentation makes new kinds of publications possible. The Web may be the only place where some specialized or time-sensitive information can be made public, for no other reason than that it would be too difficult, or unprofitable, to put it into print. So along with the rubbish that a Web search inevitably churns up, there are those sources which make Web research invaluable, and in some cases essential.

Before we get started with the research process, it will be helpful to examine the basic anatomy of a Web page. We will then consider how to evaluate pages for their relevance, authority, and accuracy. Then we will examine page types, and each type in detail:

Informational pages
News and journalistic sources
Advocacy web pages
Personal home pages

Then we will try out a few search strategies, and consider these related topics:
Finding a topic
Web directories
Preparing to search
Search engines
Citing online sources

Some terms in the text are linked to definitions in the glossary.

Note: This site contains Frames pages. If your browser can not display Frames, or if you would like to print out the guide, please use the catenated No-Frames version.

Next: The anatomy of a web page 



Evaluating Content

Alexander, Jan and Marsha Tate. "Teaching Critical Evaluation Skills for World Wide Web Resources." http://www.science.widener.edu/~withers/webeval.htm. (28 March 1997)

 Beck, Susan. "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Institute for Technology Assisted Learning. http://lib.nmsu.edu/staff/susabeck/evalcrit.html. (21 Sept 97)

 Grassian, Esther. "Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources." http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/college/instruct/critical.htm. (28 March 1997)

 Harris, Robert. "Evaluating Internet Research Sources." http://www.sccu.edu/faculty/R_Harris/evalu8it.htm. (21 Sept 97)

 Hendersen, John. "ICYouSee A to Z: T is for Thinking." http://www.ithaca.edu/library/Training/hott.html. (21 Sept 97)

 Schultz, Ann. "Evaluating World Wide Web Information." http://thorplus.lib.purdue.edu/library_info/instruction/gs175/3gs175/evaluation.html. (21 Sept 97)


Search Strategies

Adams, Rose. "Beginning Research on Any Topic." http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/adams/resea.html. (24 Sept 97)

 Barker, Joe. "Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial." http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/FindInfo.html. (20 Sept 1997)

 Barlow, Linda. "How to Use Web Search Engines." The Spider's Apprentice. http://www.monash.com/spidap4.html. (23 Sept 97).

 Engle, Michael. "How to Find and Develop a Viable Research Topic." Library Research At Cornell: A Hypertext Guide. http://www.library.cornell.edu/okuref/research/tutorial.html. (06 Oct 97).

 Notess, Greg R. "Internet Search Techniques and Strategies." Online Jul 97. http://www.onlineinc.com/onlinemag/julOL97/net7.html. (20 Sept 97)

 Page, Adam. "The Search is Over: The Search Engine Secrets of the Pros." PC Computing. http://www.zdnet.com/pccomp/features/fea1096/sub2.html. (19 Sept 97)


Citation Style Guides

Walker, Janice. "A Style Sheet for Citing Internet Resources." Berkeley Learning Web. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/MLAStyleSheet.html. (28 Sept 97)

 WEPAS. "Web Extension to American Psychological Association Style (WEAPAS): Proposed standard for referencing online documents in scientific publications." http://www.beadsland.com/weapas/. (28 Sept 97)


Other Sources

NCSA. "A Beginner's Guide to URLs." http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/demoweb/url-primer.html. (06 Oct 97)


Version 1.1
1997 Craig Branham

Saint Louis University
Created: 27-March-97
Last Modified: 06-Oct-97

URL for this Document: http://www.slu.edu/departments/english/research/