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Research Skills for First-Year Seminars (FSEMs): Google and Wikipedia


The letter G from the Google logo  

Let's begin Google.

Google is a fast, easy way to search for basic facts and other information, but for college-level research, you have to go beyond just looking up facts. As a new UMW student, you need to research topics, explore ideas, and make connections. That's where the library comes in!

So remember, Google is a place for searching, and the library is the place for researching.


Please watch this short video from the University of Louisville on the differences between using Google and using the library.



Your teachers may have cautioned you about Wikipedia.  Should you use it for a college research project?   Yes...but only in a few specific ways.  Let's talk about the DOs and DON'Ts of Wikipedia.


  • Find Ideas - Skim through articles to find ideas for topics.
  • Generate Search Terms - As you read the entries, look for bolded words and words that link to other articles.  These are words that describe related concepts, and you can use them as search terms in the library databases. 
  • Find More Sources - At the bottom of each page is a list of citations.  Follow these citations to find the sources.  These sources will give you more information on the topic, and some of them might be appropriate for college level research.


  • Cite Wikipedia - In academic research, you usually never cite an encyclopedia, which merely repeats information from other sources.
  • Believe Everything - Because the content is user-created, anonymous, and does not have a mandatory review process, there is no guarantee that the information is credible or accurate.