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HSCI 201: Using web sites

Principles of Public Health Science

Google Scholar

It is okay to start looking for information using Google (or internet search engine of your choice). However, using Google Scholar can help you target more scholarly information. An added benefit to using Google Scholar is that it provides links to full text articles provided by the Purdue Libraries.

If you are off campus, you can edit the Library Links in Scholar Preferences so Google Scholar will continue to highlight the full text that is available through the Purdue Libraries. 

  • Go to scholar.google.com
  • Click on the "hamburger" menu in the top left corner of the page
  • Click on the Settings wheel at the bottom of the menu
  • Click Library Links on the left side of the page
  • Select Purdue University - Full Text at Purdue and Open WorldCat - Library Search

If you are expected to do a comprehensive literature search, you should consider using some of the scholarly databases provided by the Purdue Libraries.

Evaluating web sites

You may be asked to justify why you accept and present the information from a web page as credible. Be prepared to discuss the points outlined below.

  • Who created this site? What are the author's qualifications or credentials? Is the site authored by an organization or institution that endorses the page/site? You are looking for evidence, or lack thereof, of authority, reliability, and credibility on behalf of the author(s).
  • If the authors are presenting information as facts (rather than opinion), how did they come by this information? If you wanted to do some fact checking, is there enough information included to track down their information sources? Look for links or citations to journal articles, government reports, etc. A bibliography of cited references can be a good sign.
     
  • How current is this page/site?  And, how important is currency important for your topic?
    • The importance of timeliness can vary. If there haven't been any new developments in a field, it might be okay for the information to be "old." Use your knowledge and/or compare with other information sources to determine how current information on a topic should be.
  • What audience is the author addressing? Is this reflected in writing style, vocabulary, or tone?
  • What is the purpose of the information? Determine this by reading the information. Consider:
    • Does the author express a particular point of view?
    • Does the author have a bias? What is the nature of the bias? Note: Do not dismiss something simply because you detect the author's bias. If the information is useful, use it, but make sure you indicate that you are aware of the author's bias.
    • Are the author's affiliations reflected in the message or content?
    • Do the associated or linked web pages have a bias?
    • Does the material inform? Persuade? Explain?
    • Is the information accurate/factual? Is there sufficient evidence?  What conclusions are drawn?