If Not the Web, Then Where Do I Start?

If the general Web search seems unmanageable because it provides so many search results, then where do we turn? Consider the problem that the Web presents: we are left to evaluate sources on our own, trying to investigate what is fact and what is opinion, what is credible and what is not. Many people give up and just use the first few results that a Web search returns.

The solution to the problem is pretty clear: find a research tool that does this evaluation for us. Is there such a thing? Of course there is. The very process of publication, in most cases, involves major editorial and academic oversight, meaning that what is published by a reputable university press, a scholarly journal, or a subscription database has already passed the reliability test.

Therefore, it makes all the sense in the world to start our research by accessing subscription databases (as are provided by most public libraries and colleges) or by using a library catalog to find print sources. This doesn't mean that what we find will always be applicable to our research topic, but it will be trustworthy.

Research tools like a database or an online library catalog will not necessarily provide 5 million search results in less than a second, as Google might. But we also do not need to worry about 3 million of those 5 million being untrustworthy.