Communication Studies: Web & Background Info

Background information

Getting Started
If you can speak for one minute without notes on your topic, and answer the "Who, what, when, where and why?" for that topic, then you are ready for deeper research. If not, invest a few minutes in reading an encyclopedia article to learn some basic facts about your topic.

Encyclopedias

And of course,

  • Wikipedia  Your instructor probably won't accept Wikipedia as a source, but it is a great place to  get ideas at the beginning of your research. Be sure to check the Bibliography, Notes and External Links at the bottom of each entry. They often link to very credible sources which you can use.

Policy & research institutes

Policy and research institutes conduct and publish credible research, often including polls, and advocacy on social, political, cultural or economic issues. While most policy and research institutes are non-profit organizations, some have a political or ideological slant.

Google search tips

Add site:edu or site:gov to limit your search to .edu or .gov sites
Limiting your search to the areas of the web where the information is most reliable, such as education sites or government sites is a good way to find credible sources. 

For example, a search for nutritional supplements, will bring up many commercial (.com) sites trying to sell you vitamins. If you search for nutritional supplements site:gov , the top results (except for the sponsored ads) will be sites such as the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, which are authoritative, unbiased sources that are not trying to sell you anything.
If you search for nutritional supplements site:edu, your top results will be from universities providing research on nutritional supplements.

Use a minus sign to exclude words.

For example, if you are looking for weather information in Portland, Maine you could add -oregon to your search to exclude web sites with the word "oregon."
Or to exclude commercial web sites, add -site:com to your search. For example, nutritional supplements -site:com

Evaluating Sources to Find Quality Research

This video will provide you with three questions to ask of any source to make sure it is a good fit for your research assignment.