UL Instruction   Internet Research   Step 1: What do you need?

Step 1: What do you need?

Before you begin searching the Internet, it is important to think carefully about what sort of information you need for your research. Simply entering a search term in the search box of a search engine can return interesting results, but usually, it also returns much irrelevant material. A focused search can save you a lot of time. Have another look at your search question, and try to make it as specific as possible. During this review, ask yourself the following questions:

What is the goal of the information you seek? Consider matters such as:

  • highlighting the various aspects of your topic;
  • giving objective information;
  • explaining a topic or definition;
  • supporting your own arguments with facts and figures;
  • enlarging your own background knowledge;
  • illustrating your topic with images or examples.

What type of information do you need to attain this goal? Think of:

  • facts, figures, statistics;
  • quotations/opinions;
  • scholarly articles;
  • images/charts;
  • news articles;
  • eyewitness reports;
  • governmental documents (bills, memos, etc.);
  • documentaries;
  • radio commentaries.

Use your identified goals and information types to perform a focused search on the Internet. For example, the CIA World Factbook is handy for facts and figures. For academic publications, however, you would do better to search in the UL’s databases or in academic search engines such as Google Scholar or Scirus.


  • Use this information in your search question. For example, combine your search term with the type of information (e.g., quotation+ Hirshi Ali) for a more focused result.

  • If you would like to know more about preparing for your search, constructing your search question and defining your search terms, you can follow the course Searching for scholarly information.


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