Conducting Research Online

This article was published in The California Aggie on November 8, 2005. Click here to view the Aggie version.

On Beyond Google
At times researching on the internet can seem like a double-edged sword: there's a ton of information, but then again, there's a ton of information. We've all spent precious hours sorting through ads and junk sites to find that one nugget of useful datum and know there must be a better way.

So enough of search engines that direct you to! There are credible, helpful sources out there, and the following tips are designed to help you find them.

UC Davis University Library Research Tools:
Search for electronic journals--over 22,000!--and articles using the library's subscription databases.

MySearchSpace portal:
Also part of the UCD Library system, this portal, formerly known as Harvest portal, allows you to save searches for future reference.

The California Digital Library:
A UC research tool housing digital UC library collections, ranging from scientific journals to museum exhibits, California government statistics, and materials published by UC departments. Use this resource and enjoy research devoid of fluff.

Librarians' Internet Index:
A reliable collection, this site acts like a sieve, filtering out useless sources and presenting a database of research-friendly websites. A task force of librarians vigorously maintains this database's quality.

Developed and supported by UC Riverside, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education, this site helps you refine your search instantly with easy-to-use categories featured on the homepage: "Bio, Ag & Med Sciences," "Socsci & Humanities," "Business & Economics" and the like.

A Quick URL Guide Knowing what kind of information a website contains before actually going to it can save you a lot of time. Here's a quick directory of different types of sites to help you navigate the web:

These sites are informational and without agenda. They often offer the following:
  • Statistical data
  • Reports
  • Dictionaries/encyclopedias
  • Student pages
  • University affiliation (note
Non-profit international groups such as the World Health Organization fall into this category.

Sites for elementary/high school teachers and students provide a good source for background information, but will likely be too basic for in-depth projects.

US military: these sites may be unavailable for security reasons.

Government-sponsored sites: these are usually reliable.

Non-profit organizations: these generally promote an agenda, though that may serve your research purpose.

Commercial sites: be wary, as most endorsements will be market-driven.

A Note on Plagiarism
Internet plagiarism provides another instance of the internet's characteristic duality: it offers seemingly endless opportunities to cheat, while making catching plagiarized papers easier than ever. In 2004-05, Student Judicial Affairs received and resolved 290 plagiarism cases--more than ever before--, almost all involving the internet.

There are both free and commercial sites available online that offer instructors plagiarism screening services: PAIRwise (Pa per Authorship Integrity Research), a free software program, and, both commercial subscription services, to name just three. These software programs and services scan papers and compare them to existing online documents, including shared papers from clubs and the like. Teachers can also type a suspicious phrase into a search engine to find its twin on the web, and instructors can tell you just how obvious plagiarized work appears to their trained eyes. Know also, that if instructors find plagiarism, they will report the incident to Student Judicial Affairs.