ENGL 235 Introduction to Technical Communication (Wilber)

Writing a Proposal for Specific Audiences - for students in Ari Wilber's 235

Smarter Web Searching

Effective Web Searching 

To find current businesses, government reports, data, think tank reports, advocacy groups, and local news or organizations, the Web can be the best place to search for info.

That said, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the results of a Web search and miss useful sources.

Targeted Web search strategies can help! 

Search Strategies & Tips
  • Use keywords that capture what you want to find info on. Be flexible and adjust as needed.
  • Limit to information from a specific domain source. 
    • .gov for government info
    • .org for non-profit organizations
    • .edu for educational sites, such as university research institutes and think tanks
    • .mil for military sources
    • .com for commercial businesses
  • NOTE: Keep in mind that domain is just one piece of information and there are not "good" and "bad" domains for research. 
  • Limit to a specific kind of information. 
    • add the keyword statistics to find statistics
    • use the limiter .pdf to look for pdfs
  • Look through the results beyond the first page you get. You may find a great source four or five pages in!
  • Filter Bubbles: Keep in mind that Google's algorithm returns results that it "thinks" you will like. That means you will likely get things akin to what you have clicked on, liked, opened, and searched for before.
    • Therefore, the cast a wider net, run multiple searches with different search terms.
    • You might also try searching in incognito mode!
  • You can construct a search to look within a website. This can be useful, for example, to explore what a university or research institute has on current research in a field To do so:
    • Type site: and the root of the research institute or program website.
      • Ex: site:www.cs.washington.edu/research/robotics
    • The search screen then lets you to search within that program's web site with a specific search term.
      • In this case, I searched "sensors" and got a list of links to content on sensors within the UW robotics program.

Final Tip: Try Google Advanced Search for a search experience more like that in a library database. Google Advanced Search helps with keywords, domains, dates, and more.

Assess your Info

All information needs to be evaluated to determine if it offers reliable information that is appropriate for your needs.

Whether you use the CRAAP test, ASPECT, SIFT, or another evaluation rubric, be sure to assess if you are using the best information for your purposes and audiences. 

CRAP Test: Does that information belong in your research paper or is it C.R.A.P.?
  • How recent is the information?
  • When was it published? If a website. How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic? Explain.
  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?  Is it balanced?
  • Does it include references or sources for data, claims, and quotations? Explain.
  • Can you validate the information in two other sources?
  • Consider your audience. Is the standard of proof in this source appropriate for your audience?
  • Who is the author or creator?
  • What are their credentials and expertise?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?
  • Consider your audience. Is the expertise of this author/ source appropriate for your audience?
Purpose/Point of View
  • Is the source: Informative? Opinion? Entertainment? 
  • What is its point of view?
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell you something? Does it have ads? 

SIFT Evaluation Tool

Use the technique of Lateral Reading to Validate Claims and Sources

(click on image to enlarge)

SIFT: Stop. Investigate. Find a better Source. Trace back to Source

This work is licensed under a creative commons attribution license.

Why Use Web Sources?

Searching the Web

The Web can be a great source of information!

Use the Web to find: 

  • Current government data, policies, and other info
  • School websites
  • Professional organizations
  • Commercial businesses
  • Local news sources
  • Organizations working in a particular area
  • Papers and research produced by an industry or organization (not generally be peer-reviewed)