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South Regional TAFE : Your Library: How to Study with Digital Information

Welcome to our guide on how to use the Library and search online for your subject areas. If you need help, please ask one of the staff.


The internet is a great resource for your research, however, the sheer quantity and suspect quality of the resources available makes finding the right information a difficult and time consuming problem.

When you have located information on a topic of interest to you, you will be faced with the problem of deciding whether or not to use this information in your assignments. Remember that anyone can post information on the Internet. Much of the time, this information can be useful and important, however, there is also much unreliable information on the Internet.  Currently, no web standards exist to validate the information posted on the Internet.

Content of a website


The accuracy of a web document is not subjected to the same degree of editorial control, so you need to look at other aspects of the document to decide on how accurate it is. The status of the author and the reputation of the institution can decide the reliability of the information.

Accuracy indicators

  • Is there evidence of a bibliography or footnotes?
  • Does it include details about any data gathered during research, or how it was obtained?
  • Are individuals or organizations who contributed unpublished sources of data named in the document?
  • Can the facts, research findings and conclusions be cross-checked elsewhere?
  • Is the site covered by a copyright declaration with the publication date?


Look to see if the information is current and that the page shows the date of the last revision or update.

Currency indicators

  • Is there a date included at the bottom of the page?
  • How often is the page updated or revised?
  • Are the links from the site still active?


  • Make sure the page is complete and not still under construction.
  • Can you determine the extent of the topic?
  • Look for a site that is logically organised and presented in an easy navigable manner.
  • Does the document require special software to view it?


Check to see if the information displays any bias that may attempt to sway the reader’s opinion. If the topic is a controversial one, are both points of view presented in a non-judgmental manner? Do the links take you to pages supporting the author or offer an opposing viewpoint?

Objectivity indicators

  • Is there advertising on the page?
  • How are facts presented?
  • Does the author argue his case clearly and logically?


  • A site which is too busy to access, too slow to load or too difficult to navigate may not be worth your time.
  • Make sure that the language and vocabulary level suits you.
  • What is the balance between text and images on the page?
  • Can you detect any grammatical errors?
  • Is there any interactivity and does it increase the educational value of the page?

How Can I Tell if a Website is Reliable?


  • Are there biographical statements about the author of the article?
  • If there is no author listed, what is the reputation of the organisation that is responsible for the content?
  • Who published the site? Look for the © at the base of the page to see who has claimed responsibility for the page.

The Internet address or URL of a web page can tell you a lot about the site. Check the domain name to find out who or what type of organization has published it:














Why is this material on the Internet?

        Advertise    c      to promote/sell products and services

        Persuade    c      argument for a particular point of view

        Inform       c      provide access to useful information

        Entertain    c      provide games, quests, puzzles, etc.

Based on the content, tone, language and style, who is the intended audience?


As a final check, ask yourself if the material you have found and want to use, is as good as printed materials that might be held in the library or located via other means such as on-line indexes.

Remember that in general, traditional (paper) published information is considered more reliable than material from the Internet. 

There is clearly some very useful material on the Internet, such as government reports and news services. Use your own judgment, based on the suggestions outlined in this pamphlet to guide you in making informed decisions on which materials to use in your assignments.

If in doubt, ask Library Staff for help.

A Final Word About Copying.

Like most published documents, those on the Internet are usually covered by copyright laws. If you find information on the Internet that you want to use in your assignments, be aware of the following:

Don’t assume that you can print or download anything from the Internet. Check to see if there is a copyright statement on the website.

Use your own words to describe the material you have found. Don’t copy directly from the website.

Do not forward text or images to other students. If you want to inform others about a website, send them the URL instead

In general, the copyright laws allow you to print or save material to a disk for study purposes if it is directly related to your research or assignment and that the copying is fair. This means that you intend to use the material for your assignment and that you are not copying huge amounts of material.

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"If you can, you should, and if you are brave enough to start, you will." ~ Stephen King