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A Guide To Online Research

Finding, Evaluating, and Citing Information Sources

The academic research project is a standard feature of every student’s life at Cornell. Consequently, for every student, research projects raise important questions, such as: Where do you find the information you need for your research? How do you find it? How do you evaluate and manage that information once you find it?

When engaging in academic research, you have to be a savvy information shopper and a savvy consumer, too. You must:

  1. Know where and how to search efficiently to find the best information for your purposes
  2. Make good decisions regarding the quality and appropriateness of your information sources, including assessing whether a resource is trustworthy and up-to-date
  3. Know who has rights to the work you use
  4. Know how to properly give others credit for their ideas
  5. Know the extent to which you can ethically remix or synthesize ideas and information in your own work

This is where research skills and knowledge of Cornell’s academic integrity guidelines are key.

Your approach to information research, like your needs and requirements regarding sources of information, will vary depending on what you research. For example, you may be researching scholarly articles for a paper, popular news and opinion for a speech, images and video for a multimedia project, or blog posts and Wikipedia articles for the latest movie news. A quick Google or Wikipedia search may suit your purposes in some scenarios, but, for academic research, that’s just the first step.

When you conduct academic research, you join a community of scholars in a chain of conversation and truth seeking that has gone on for centuries before you. In the Internet age, you have more access to more of that collected information than anyone else has ever had. Digital literacy is, in part, knowledge about how and when to use the wide variety of tools you need—digital, print, and personal—to complete your assignments. Although there is no single "right" way to conduct information research, certain methods and skills can make your research efforts more efficient and effective.