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Information Literacy Tutorial: Finding information on the internet

Learn what academic literature is, where to find it and how to use it correctly.

Looking for information on the internet

Every day you are confronted with an overwhelming amount of information on the internet.

Google is currently the most popular search engine and has the largest database, with billions of web pages, other types of documents (e.g. PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and images. Because the internet and the Google database are so huge, your search will always produce results, but not all of them will be reliable or relevant to your search question.  Scanning the information you find is a very time-consuming process.  

During your study you will be warned time and again by your teachers about the quality of the search results you find using Google (or another search engine). Always check your search results critically! In the chapter 'Evaluating the quality of internet sites' you will find more information enabling you to distinguish between reliable and unreliable websites. Below you will find some suggestions about how to search better and more efficiently. And an alternative for the 'standard' Google is presented.

Academic literature on the internet

Search engines such as Google only enable you to retrieve a very small part of all existing academic literature, because they do not have access to the databases that are used by libraries for library catalogues and bibliographies and to full-text publishers' databases.

However, you may sometimes come across relevant references using Google, for example on publishers’ websites or the personal web pages of academics. 

Although Google Scholar is much more useful for finding scholarly publications than the regular Google, you will get much better results by searching in the databases the Library offers.

Search tips

Here are a few tips for faster and more efficient searching using Google (Scholar):

  • Never use just one word in your search; always use at least two words that are very relevant to your research question.
  • Use Boolean operators or Google Advanced Search to make different search combinations. More about Boolean operators.
  • Use quotation marks for combined search terms or phrases in Google. (E.g. "Second World War" or "quantum mechanics"). This is also useful when looking for names: "Elmer Sterken"or "Spatial Sciences".
  • If you are looking for a particular type of document, type in the document extension (e.g. pdf, doc, xls, flash) in your search command. 

Google also has a page containing search tips. 

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine for searching in a growing collection of academic publications that cannot be found using the ‘standard’ Google search engine. Some publishers have given Google Scholar access to the full text of their online journals. You can also use Google Scholar to find citations (see the chapter Citation searches) and references to books.

The Library, Limerick Institute of Technology