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Seven Steps - A Research Strategy: 5: The Open Web

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The Open Web

There is a lot of great information to be found on the Web.  However, it is important to think critically about the information you find to determine whether it's reliable or not.  While websites can offer useful information to support the arguments in your paper, cite them judiciously, relying primarily on scholarly information to support your arguments.  

Using the Web

Select the tabs below to learn more about The Open Web.

Yes! There are websites and resources on the web that can provide information to strengthen the positions and arguments you make in papers, speeches, and other coursework.  The variety of useful web resources includes:

A search engine is an automated system that searches within its own index of webpages to match the keywords you enter--and then offers a listing of "hits" that link to these webpages. Google and Bing are two well-known search engines.  Although each search engine works a little differently, keep the following things in mind when looking at search results on the Web:

  • Webpages rank higher in search engine results lists when they are linked to by other, high quality sites.  The more sites that link to the page, the higher it will appear in a results list.
  • Search engines may display results in a “customized” order based on your prior browsing history.  (This creates what is known as a "filter bubble.")  This customization might limit the website results to those filtered or skewed to fit the subject areas of previous searching.
  • Advertisements generally appear near the top of the page, and can sometimes be mistaken for results.

Activity:  To see for yourself how no two search engines are alike, click the link below to go to Google, and then type in the search phrase, “ethics of human cloning.” Google  Take a look at your search results and their order.  Now, try the same search in Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Bing  Are your results the same?  Do they appear in a different order?  Do you see any different advertisements? When searching the open Web, it can be helpful to use different search engines to determine which returns the most helpful results.  You might also notice that results differ using the same search engine at different computers at different locations.   

There are useful resources on the Open Web: academic journals, reference works, and books in the public domain, for example. 

The Directory of Open Access Journals offers thousands of scholarly journals in the sciences and humanities.


Another open access resource for academic articles is PLOS (Public Library of Science).

Hathi Trust logo

Hathi Trust - Digital Library - offers access to millions of full-text books. 


You are probably already familiar with the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.  Although Wikipedia may be useful for finding “everyday” information, it’s generally not acceptable for source citation in college-level coursework.

As a “wiki,” the content on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone.  Information might be inaccurate, and it can change constantly.  Wikipedia articles may also be subject to “vandalism” in which users post information that is purposefully inaccurate, irrelevant, or offensive. 

Despite its drawbacks, the Wikipedia community as a whole strives to maintain content that is researched and cited.  Therefore, although you shouldn’t use a Wikipedia article as a cited source for a research paper, you might discover other information resources about your topic on the “References” and “External Links” areas of a Wikipedia article.


Now, try these self-check questions as
an informal quiz of your understanding. 

The Open Web

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