Navigating the Web
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Navigating the Web

Welcome to Navigating the Web, a tutorial brought to you by Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Library Services. In this tutorial, we’ll investigate If freely available websites are appropriate for your assignments, tips to determine the quality of a web site, copyrighted, fee-based web sites and another type of information resource: the Minnesota State Mankato Library Services website Books, newspapers, websites, journals,wikis. With all this information to choose from, how can you decide what sources are appropriate for your research at MSU? For many of us, we begin looking for information for our assignments by going to our favorite search engine like Google. Search engines like Google or Bing are gateways to freely available websites, while a site like the MSU library homepage is a gateway to information accessible to only MSU students, faculty, and staff The reason for these restrictions is that the material is copyright protected. But you don’t have to register or pay a fee The web has up-to-the-minute information like a breaking news story. But you will soon find that anyone can publish a freely available web site. A web site might come from a highly qualified expert, like Stephen Hawking or from fifth graders publishing their history reports Before gathering information on the web, ask, “What type of information do I need for my assignment?” The easiest way to begin finding information is knowing what you can and cannot use. In your assignment, can you use information based on personal opinions or do you need information supported by research or other types of evidence? Most college-level assignments require information developed through research, rather than information based on personal opinions. Books and journal articles frequently use research based information. If your instructor requires books and journal articles, freely available websites are not the best sources. You’ll want to use the Library Services web site, but more about the library later Once you have a clear understanding of the kind of information you can use for your assignment and you start searching You’ll be confronted with the issue of finding quality sites Since anyone can publish a website, how can you tell if a site is reliable? Ask yourself:
Why was this web site created? Some sites are created to entertain. These sites are created to grab your attention with sensational or humorous headlines. They are meant for fun, but not to inform. Some websites are created to make money. While they may provide some information, this information supports the main goal of the site to sell you something! Some websites are created to persuade you. The main purpose of these sites is to change your point of view. The information presented heavily promotes one side of an argument. For instance, just reading the title of this website Legalization of Marijuana reveals the authors’ position on this topic.
It is highly unlikely this site will contain any negative information on the use of marijuana. If you are working on an assignment that requires research based information, you would not want to use persuasion sites that do not cite their source of information or rely on opinion rather than fact in an effort to promote their ideas. On the other hand, some websites are created to educate and inform the public. These sites are helpful as you begin learning about a topic. You will often find websites with addresses ending in .gov or .edu have reliable information.
These sites usually list the information the authors’ used to write the page and those sources are a good sign that this information is trustworthy. Look for pages that cite their sources with footnotes, bibliographies, or references. Still aren’t sure of the quality of a site? Check other sources such as news, government, and education sites. Even better compare the information you found on the Check other sources such as news, government, and education sites. Even better compare the information you found on the questionable website with information in books and journal articles. If you cannot find other sources that support the information in the website, it is highly unlikely that the website is reliable! As you continue to search freely available websites for reliable information you will find numerous sites with valuable content for your assignments.But there is one big problem. Many sites will only show an an abstract or summary of an article or book. In order to access the complete content, you may be asked to pay a fee or register to use the site. The reason for these restrictions is that the material is copyright protected. But you don’t have to register or pay a fee Because you can often access the same information from Minnesota State, Mankato’s Library Services web site From the library web site, you have access to quality, copyrighted information, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on or off campus. Sources like this database from the library website allow you to access the complete content, or full text, at no charge to you. Remember, freely available websites are often good sources of up to-the-minute information and personal opinions and personal opinions You will need to evaluate the information on each site to determine its reliability since anyone can publish a website. If you are having difficulty judging the quality of the site, compare that site with other sources of information like books and journal articles. And finally, some web information is not free because of copyright. You can often find this copyrighted information via the library web site If you have questions about this tutorial or other library services, stop by the Memorial Library Reference Desk, contact us by phone, or use our online 24/7 “Ask a Librarian” service.

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