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Ghana in Context: Critical Search Tips

Research Ghanaian history to get some context while reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Evaluating Sources

You may have noticed that the previous tabs have not included information on googling your topic for information. The free web is chock full of great information, but it can be difficult to sift through the sheer amount of results to find meaningful information that is reliable, accurate, and top quality. For that reason, your teacher and I want you to use primarily library sources for this project. If you must google, be aware that you'll need to evaluate your sources with a more keen lens than you would with library sources.

Below are a few hints to becoming a more critical researcher, especially when you are searching the free web.


Use CRAAP detection to evaluate sources

  • Currency: When was it written?
  • Relevance: Does it answer questions you need answered?
  • Authority: Is the author or creator an expert in the field? Is there an author listed?
  • Accuracy: Is it accurate? Do the authors cite their sources?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose of the site?

Click here for more on CRAAP

Advanced Searcing

Google can offer you, the researcher, a lot more than a simple results list based on a keyword search.

The basic Google search assumes AND between each word.

  • For example, Cape Coast Castle will find sites with all three words.  Use OR if you want either of two terms e.g., cape coast castle OR Carolusborg.
  • Use quotes to search words as a phrase, e.g., "cape coast castle"
  • Use minus sign to eliminate undesirable words, e.g., cape coast castle -travel

Use site to find certain types of sites, e.g., site: gov or site: edu
Academic institutions and Non Government organizations (NGOs) are often .org or .edu and may have more reliable information

Use filetype to find specific formats, e.g., filtetype: pdf or filetype: doc

Use intitle to find sites where words are in title of the page, e.g., intitle: India diabetes
This may help you find more relevant results

Use the advanced search to narrow your results using the above tips and more and get better results!

How to do it: click on the gear icon on the right side of the results page.


Wikipedia can be a useful site for finding information, however, it (along with other broad encyclopedias like WorldBook or Britannica) is not cited as a scholarly source.

What does that mean?

  1. Wikipedia is a tertiary source, a consolidation of primary and secondary sources. Whe you are conducting scholarly research, we expect you to be doing that consolidation!
  2. Wikipedia is edited and added to by many different contributers. This can lead to very lengthy articles that include mintutia about your topic that may not be relevant to your research. Because there are so many editors, the articles are not cohesive, making them more difficult to read.
  3. Sometimes information on wikipedia can be unreliable, depending on the topic.

If you really love wikipedia...

I advise students to use wikipedia to find basic information like names or dates. Later, after you've collected background information from better sources like Oxford Art Online, you may chose to revisit wikipedia to find more sources in the referneces section of the page. By this time you will have developed your own expertise on the topic and will be better equipped to sift through wikipedia's information.