Research & Information Technology Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Using Computers to Publish Works

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Research in the…
  • 2:02 Databases and Bibliographies
  • 3:33 Other Reliable…
  • 4:27 The Importance of…
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Anna Hiller

Anna has taught world literature in several universities and has a Ph.D. in Spanish Literature.

This lesson describes various techniques for identifying reliable secondary sources when using online databases and bibliographies for research. It also discusses the importance of writing strong search strings when doing online research.

Research in the Information Age

Imagine we were transported back in time to 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Everything would be unrecognizable. Things like plants, animals, and even the dinosaurs themselves would be strange and unfamiliar, and perhaps more than a little scary!

Now, let's take a step back in time that's a little closer than the time of the dinosaurs: 1975. Though T-Rexes were not exactly roaming the land in 1975, things were still pretty different from the way they are today. There were no hybrid cars, no laptops, no smartphones, and there was definitely no internet. People still read books, even the print kind! And if you wanted to get a book, chances are you went to your local library to borrow one.

At the library, there was always a piece of furniture there that is now almost extinct like the dinosaurs: a card catalog. A card catalog was a directory of all the books in the library, arranged on index cards by author, title, and subject. You had to flip through them to find the book you wanted or needed by hand. Now, of course, we can go to our computers, access the internet, and learn about any subject in the world in a matter of seconds. There are over a billion websites now, and over four billion web pages online. Imagine if you had to print all that information out on index cards. That would have to be one very large card catalog!

Even though the internet is huge and is a vast store for human knowledge, many of these websites are considered to be unreliable. The biggest example of this is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is editable by the public, not just experts in their fields. For reliable information, we turn to the databases and bibliographies created by scholars for researchers and students like you. It is easy to do quick research now that we have the internet, but it must also be quality research. Let's take a look at how to find some reliable resources.

Databases and Bibliographies

A secondary source is a piece of criticism, data, or official study that a scholar has performed regarding your topic of interest. If you want to find a legitimate secondary source for your research, you will have to access an official database or bibliography online. The vast majority of the secondary sources listed in databases and bibliographies have been written by scholars in their fields, and frequently other scholars review them before they are published. They are therefore considered to be reliable resources.

In general, databases have a wide scope and are multidisciplinary, sort of like the card catalog with an index card for every single book in the library. If you were doing research in more than one subject area, you might need to use a multidisciplinary database instead, like WorldCat. WorldCat is a library card catalog, only it indexes almost every major library on Earth. There you can find out where to locate reliable sources from all over the world. Pretty amazing!

On the other hand, bibliographies are often specific to a discipline or subject, like physics or history, and they frequently include a search engine that's targeted to one specific area or collection. This is particularly useful if you're doing a research project within one precise area of study. For example, if you were writing a paper for an English class on Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, you could use a tool specific to English literature, like the MLA Bibliography.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account