Using the Internet for Research

 The World Wide Web is an extraordinary resource for gaining access to information of all kinds, including historical, and each day a greater number of sources become available online. The advantages that the internet offers students are tremendous; so much so that some may be tempted to bypass the library entirely and conduct all of their research on the web. The History Department wants CU students to pursue knowledge with every tool available, including the internet, so long as they do so judiciously.

It is important to know that the Web is an unregulated resource. Because many unreliable sources exist on the internet, anyone – even people who have no expertise at all in your subject – can post anything at anytime. Many sources on the web have proven to be unreliable, biased, and inaccurate. Too much reliance on the web could do more damage than good. Checking the reliability and accuracy of information taken from random sites could take more time than going to the library. And using information you have not checked from such sources could have a detrimental impact on your final grade.

The key is to learn how to use the web to your best advantage.

  • To determine the best application of internet sources to your particular assignment it is strongly recommended that students talk with their instructors. Ask what internet sources will make your research and learning experience most productive.
  • Just as there are countless questionable and unreliable sources on the web, there are a growing number of newspapers, journals, archives, historical societies, libraries, colleges, and universities that are making their holdings available to all. One invaluable source is the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov), which has made millions of sources – written and visual -- accessible. Instructors and library research staff can help students locate many similar sites.
  • The internet should never be your only source when doing research. The best option for students is always the university’s libraries. Students should begin any research project by (1) familiarizing themselves with resources held in Norlin and other libraries around campus; and (2) accessing internet-based resources through the CU Library gateway.
  • A web-based tutorial, which will instruct library users on how to conduct web-based research, is available to everyone. It will show you: the difference between scholarly and popular sources, how to identify keywords, how to conduct searches on a library’s catalogue and through article databases, how to evaluate the integrity of sources, and how to use the information you find legally and ethically. The tutorial can be found at: http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/pwr/public_tutorial/home.htm
  • History students can go to a page designed especially for them. This link will give you access to subject guides in history as well as introduce you to reliable internet and CU library resources: http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/research/subjectguides/history.
  • The library maintains a page of electronic resourses, including searchable database, such as JSTOR and EEBO, so that students can take advantage of the considerable resources available to members of the university community

Documentation

All internet sources must be documented as recommended in the History Department Guidelines