If you perform a standard Internet search for your topic, it may be difficult to find anything usable.
In academic work it is not acceptable to quote something from the Internet just because it looks interesting or sums up what you want to say. There is material on the Internet of the appropriate standard but it can be hard to find. Anyone can put anything on the Internet, so if you find something interesting, you will need to check its credentials carefully before citing it.
- Look at who the author is – are they a recognised scholar in the field?
- Look at the affiliation of the website – is it a university or some other reputable institution?
Even if it is you still need to be careful – much of what you find on a university website can be student work of no great standing.
One useful way to focus an Internet search is to restrict it to specific domains – universities usually have “edu” or “ac” in their URLs, for example, while government sites have “gov” or “govt”.
To do this in Google, go to “Advanced Search” and put your domain restriction in the Domain box. To restrict a search to New Zealand university and polytech sites, for example, you would use “ac.nz” as your domain restriction. Use “govt.nz” for New Zealand government sites.
Another useful feature of Google is the Google Scholar search engine. This is designed specifically to search for scholarly literature. Not all the results will be available online, however. Results may include citations to works that are not online, or items from databases that Unitec does not subscribe to.
Don’t restrict yourself to Google if you can’t find what you want there. No two search engines work the same way, so it is always a good idea to try the same search in different places.
The Internet is a valuable source of official documents – the sites of government and international agencies will frequently contain their official policies and copies of their research reports. Google should take you straight to the homepage of any organisation you search for.