Whether you’re studying for GCSEs, A Levels, or a course of higher education, you’ll find yourself having to do some research as part of your learning. Whether or not you have been instructed to do so by a tutor or teacher, it is always beneficial to read around your subject and increase your knowledge from several different sources. The internet and search engines such as Google have changed the way we research everything. However, while it’s great to have a world of information at your fingertips, it is important that you approach any details you find with a degree of caution; and that you choose your sources of reference very carefully. If you don’t take a measured approach to using the internet for research purposes, you are likely to impede your learning as a result of misleading or completely inaccurate facts or accounts of events.
The inexperienced researcher will often go to sites like Wikipedia to glean facts, definitions and accounts of events. However, it is possible for almost anyone to submit an entry to Wikipedia, and it should not be taken as read that all ‘facts’ are thoroughly checked for accuracy. If you type a particular topic into a Google search, you’ll be faced with lists of websites that contain your search terms. The fact is, no one has to have any proven experience or knowledge to set up a website. So, although you shouldn’t discount all the information available, you should use it in conjunction with sources that you know to be accurate.
So, where do you find good quality information that is based on facts? The broadsheet newspapers, such as The Telegraph, and The Guardian, as well as the BBC and government and charity-run sites, are all excellent points of reference on a huge variety of topics. However, even when you’re using sites like this for your coursework, you should never rely on just one. Read and take notes of different accounts, ‘facts’, and perspectives; evaluate all this to develop your own opinions and thoughts. This kind of approach can spark greater interest in your subject and can also dramatically accelerate the rate at which you learn.
Using Google or other search engines can be a great starting point for anyone wanting to extend their knowledge of the subject they are studying, but the results of these searches must be approached with caution. In addition, libraries remain fantastic places to find reliable information under the guidance of an expert, so don’t underestimate the power of moving away from your laptop and onto books!
I'm a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I've been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I've also written on every other topic under the sun!