How to find quality digital content
Finding information is an important component of digital literacy. Finding digital content that is meaningful is about:
- employing various search strategies to help source quality information
- using multiple search engines to challenge personal filter bubbles
- using written, visual, and audio resources to navigate information in a variety of modes
- collecting a range of information that can then be evaluated to meet your requirements.
Before you begin searching for relevant digital content, consider:
- what is the inquiry question you are trying to answer or topic you are exploring
- the information you already have
- what information you need
- the type of information you need, for example, an overview, detailed analysis/research, or statistics
- how much information you need — what gaps are there in your knowledge.
Effective searching for digital content
You find better results using precise keywords and search strategies.
- Think of keywords from your inquiry question or topic, including synonyms. Dictionaries and a thesaurus are useful for compiling a list of keywords.
- Look at the question or topic you want information on and choose the most relevant source for your search, for example, search engine(s) and/or online databases.
- Try using different keywords and search techniques to broaden or narrow your search. Common search techniques for the internet include:
Exclude words from your search: Put - in front of a word you want to leave out. For example, jaguar speed -car.
Search for an exact match: Put a word or phrase inside quotes. For example, "tallest building".
Search within a range of numbers: Put .. between two numbers. For example, camera $50..$100.
Combine searches: Put "OR" between each search query. For example, marathon OR race.
Search for a specific site: Put "site:" in front of a site or domain. For example, site:youtube.com or site:.gov.
Search for related sites: Put "related:" in front of a web address you already know. For example, related:time.com.
— Source: Refine web searches, Google
It's very likely that your search will retrieve a large amount of information so you'll need to develop skills in evaluating and filtering information to suit your purpose.
This guidance provides useful information about effective searching:
Where to search for digital content
The National Library provides a range of quality, curated digital resources, including:
- Topic Explorer — provides quality, curated resources on a range of topics that inspire and support inquiry. Each topic set contains a wide range of resources a particular topic area or subject.
- Teaching and learning resources — offers a range of free, online teaching and learning resources, tools, and guides to support teaching and learning.
You could also start with:
Open Education resources
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium — digital or otherwise — that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.
Open Education resources include:
- OER commons — allows you to search by subject and level, create lessons and modules.
- TEDEd — videos to create customised lessons.
- Project Gutenberg — useful for digital copies of classic books.
- CK-12 — provides a library of free online resources in versions for teachers and students.
How to evaluate digital content
Evaluating information is an important part of the digital literacy process. To evaluate digital content to ensure it's meaningful:
- look critically at information to determine its relevance, suitability and reliability
- be critical and sceptical about sources and information to ensure authenticity
- check for accuracy, validity and currency as measures of information quality
- make sure all information and resources are fit for purpose.
Why evaluate information?
Anyone can put information online and for any number of reasons. Digital content — blogs, wikis, websites, social media — can contain misinformation.
Digital literacy is about being able to identify good quality digital content. Critical evaluation is key to assessing authorship, reliability and authenticity.
Tools for evaluating digital content
The following are examples of tools that are often used to evaluate digital content:
- SIFT (the four moves) — SIFT stands for stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.
- 5 Ws of website evaluation (pdf, 28KB) — poster showing: who, what, when, where, why.
- Evaluating information: applying the CRAAP test — CRAAP stands for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.
- RADCAB — your vehicle for information evaluation — RADCAB stands for relevance, appropriateness, detail, currency, authority and bias
- Evaluate it — a guide from Community College of Baltimore Library in the USA.
- Evaluating resources — a comprehensive guide from Berkeley University in California for both print and digital resources.
- Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a 'post-truth' world – a blog post by Joyce Valenza for the School Library Journal.
Using digital content in meaningful ways
When using digital content for teaching and learning, it's important to consider:
- aligning information to learning needs
- being selective in what digital content to use for what purpose
- being honest, ethical and responsible with others information to abide by legal requirements
- using individual and collaborative practices to benefit learning
- your target audience — students, teachers, your school community or wider.
Why use digital resources?
Quality digital content can provide rich, varied information for teaching and learning, and be:
- curated and disseminated by educators, library staff and students
- used in a variety of ways to enhance student learning.
- provide a rich experience by engaging students in higher-level thinking
- used to develop collaboration and problem-solving skills
- updated to remain up-to-date and relevant.
Choosing digital resources
When choosing a digital resource focus on whether it:
- aligns with learning objectives
- matches the curriculum
- has learning value and not just a 'nice to have' extra
- is appropriate for the students' learning level
- is inclusive and accessible
- engages learners and promotes effective learning
- encourages innovation.
Creating digital content
You can create digital content in any number of formats, including video, audio, Powerpoint presentations, blogs, wikis and animations.
To create meaningful digital content, you need to:
- understand your audience's needs; then address them appropriately
- use creative and critical thinking skills to produce quality materials that meet learning requirements
- have the technical competence to use a range of digital tools effectively and confidently
- be honest, ethical and responsible when publishing
- respect the rights of other copyright owners and protect the rights of the publisher.
Creating content is not new. Librarians have been creating content for a long time. Within the digital environment, there are now a vast number of tools available. Educators, students and library staff can all be active creators of digital content.
Libraries as content creators — American Libraries magazine.
Why create content
Content creation enables students to:
- develop higher-level skills of analysing, evaluating and creating
- work collaboratively to solve problems and create new work
- share their work with other students
- reuse or re-purpose the work of others
- develop the knowledge to use information in an ethically appropriate way.
Tools for content creation
There is an enormous range of content creation tools that support teaching and learning. It is important to actively look for new and better tools all the time.
Use the following websites as starters to find some useful creation tools to use in your library or classroom:
Responsible use — copyright and attribution
When you use any digital content be aware of its copyright and any usage restrictions. These are usually made clear.
If you use digital content created by someone else, it's important that you acknowledge or attribute them in your work. Check if your school has guidelines for responsible use of other people's work.
If you're unsure about how to use digital content responsibly, ask your librarian or refer to:
If you create digital content, you can also licence under Creative Commons to make it available for others to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work. You can require them to attribute you or not.
Creative Commons licences
Find out more
How teens do research in the digital world — Pew Research Center.
"Sometimes the Internet reads the question wrong": children’s search strategies & difficulties — a research paper from the University of Waikato.
Evaluating digital content: 6 resources for teachers — a blog post by Claire Lotriet.
Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Critical evaluation
Evaluating information: An information literacy challenge (pdf, 289KB) — a research paper by Mary Ann Fitzgerald.
Critical analysis and information literacy — a blog post by Judy Willis MD offering ways to help students develop critical analysis skills.
Guidelines on information literacy for lifelong learning — compiled by the information literacy section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).