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INTO - How to research legal topics: Searching the Internet

You will also want to search the internet for primary and secondary legal materials. 

This can be especially useful  for human rights law research as many treaties and human rights case law reports are made freely available on the web via organisations such as the UN and the Council of Europe.  You will also find lots of commentary materials from advocacy groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 

You can use online search techniques with search engines such as google, e.g. human rights AND "right to family life"

About Google Scholar & Books

Google Scholar Search

What is Google Scholar?

The Google Scholar search engine crawls publisher websites and open access repositories for journal article content.

You can configure the Scholar settings so that you are linked through to the full text of journal titles that are accessible to you through the University.

Take a look at the Making the most of Google Scholar guide for guidance on adjusting the settings of this search engine. By adjusting your settings you will give yourself the best chance of finding full text materials when searching on Google Scholar.

Google Book Search

Another useful discovery service is Google Books. As its name suggests, the focus of that service is book content. 

Copyright free material will be available to view in full, other titles will be available in bibliographic format only with some limited search functionality.

But be aware that not all information is equal!  
It is important that you ensure the information you rely on and include in your work is of a good academic quality. Inaccurate, false or misleading information can undermine the points that you want to make and weaken your arguments.  Critical evaluation is especially important with non academic sources (e.g. news sources, blog posts, web pages).  You may find it useful to use the CRAAP test for evaluation.

Using the CRAAP test for evaluating sources

The ability to evaluate the academic quality of the information you find is a core aspect of scholarly research. 

This is particularly important when searching online and using tools like Google. While textbooks and academic journals will likely have gone through a rigorous review and editing process, there are no such guarantees for much of the information you can find online.

The CRAAP test provides simple criteria for judging the academic quality of information. By asking some questions of the sources you encounter, you can successfully boost the quality of information you use in your work.

The five main CRAAP test criteria are:

  • Currency
  • Relevancy
  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Purpose

In an age of misinformation and fake-news, the ability to  evaluate the quality of the information we find has never been more important. 

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the web links functional?

Relevancy: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate academic level?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Accuracy: the reliability and correctness of the content

  • Is the information supported by evidence (e.g. references, research data)?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Authority: the source of the information 

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organisational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

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