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.

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, we will examine the basic anatomy of a Web page; consider how to evaluate pages for their relevance, authority, and accuracy; then we will consider page types, and each type in detail. Then we will think about search strategies, and try out a few topic resources, Web directories, and search engines. There is a complete index and list of sources for this site below.

If you are returning a returning user and have not visited this site for a while, find out what changes have been made recently.

Note: This site contains Frames pages. If your browser can not display Frames, please use the catenated No-Frames version.

Enter the guide: The anatomy of a Web page

Full Index of this Site

Student guide home
Updates to this site
The anatomy of a Web page Web search strategies:
Evaluating Web sources for relevance Getting started
Evaluating Web sources for authority Web directories
Evaluating Web sources for accuracy Search engines 1
Web page types: Search engines 2
Informational pages Citing online sources
News and journalistic sources Glossary
Advocacy Web pages No-Frames version: part 1
Personal home pages No-Frames version: part 2

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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)

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Copyright Notice

All materials on this website are copyrighted () by Craig Branham.

The materials available on this site were designed to be read on the World Wide Web. They may not be reprinted and redistributed in any form. I extend permission to individuals and non-profit institutions to create links from a WWW page to any document on the site, as long as it is clear from the link context that these materials are not owned or affiliated with any project or organization other than the Department of English at Saint Louis University.

Editors and authors of magazines, trade journals, books, and other print or electronic media must obtain permission to reproduce any part of this site. These materials were not intended for print publication or distribution.

Version 1.2
Copr. 1997 Craig Branham
Saint Louis University
Created: 27-March-97
Last Modified: 12-Jan-98

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