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English and Creative Writing: Websites

Using the internet

As a research tool the internet should be approached with caution. It should be a supplement to your academic endeavour and not a replacement for it.

Most people use search engines when looking for information on the web. Google, for example, is very well known - the most widely used and one of the better search engines for coverage and use.


  •  It can only search what is sometimes called the 'surface web'. It cannot reach many academic articles which are usually held in subscription only databases - the sort your library purchases - so you may miss a lot of useful information.
  • It has no editorial function – it simply finds things. What it does find can be biased, out of date or often just plain wrong.
  • It may bring you the largest number of results – but they are often irrelevant or poor quality. Quantity is no substitute for quality.
This is true of all search engines. Different search engines will search different parts of the web. Although there will be overlaps they will all unearth some different results.


"Google is Not the Answer!" Cartoon © 2004 Michael P. May. Used with permission. 


Should you be referencing Wikipedia in your academic assignments?

Wikipedia articles might be used as a starting point for research but your assignment should never be based on information from Wikipedia without first checking other sources. Failure to do this caused considerable embarrassment for the Leveson Enquiry.

Even the people at Wikipedia have concerns about students using Wikipedia for academic research. See what they have to say about it:

The Google filter

Are you stuck in a filter bubble? Watch this thought provoking film from Eli Parisier about the unintended consequences of web companies personalising our web searching.