For question a) I started my search, as I always do, by putting key words, in this case ‘Bill Archer’ into Google. I then scanned the first few entries to see if I had found the Bill Archer I was looking for and as there was nothing obvious I looked at the Wikipedia entry for Bill Archer and read he once the “controversial” Chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. The Wikipedia entry mentioned ‘Build a Bonfire’ so I decided to search this in Google and this took me to Amazon.co.uk and the book ‘Build a Bonfire: How Football Fans United to Save Brighton and Hove Albion (North, S. and Hodson, P., 1997) and read the first few pages that were available on the Amazon site. I found out that Bill Archer along with David Belotti and Greg Stanley sold the club’s ground leaving the club with no ground and virtually no income from the sale and hence his lack of popularity in Brighton. I also find out that Liam Brady managedBrighton.
For question b) I deliberately chose not go to the Wikipedia entry on HebdenBridgeand tried to search in Google using ‘HebdenBridge+ housing + law’ but this, unsurprisingly, just brought up results for estate agents and solicitors. I could not find anything about the specific law (I even posted on the Hebden Bridge Web) but I did find out via the The Independent that the town has a significantly higher suicide rate than the national average and this led to the making of the film documentary ‘Shed Your Tears and Walk Away’ by Jez Lewis. In the end I went back to Wikipedia and found the answer; the Flying Freehold legal arrangement. By not go directly to Wikipedia I found out a lot more about the town than I otherwise would. I did spend much more time finding the answer to this question, but my searches led me to learning more about the town that just the Flying Freehold legal arrangement, for example, how Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath have connections to the town.
For question c) I followed my usual search routine and searched for ‘Crowborough and Winnie-the-Pooh’ in Google and found out the local area was used as the setting for A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books. Being a lover of maps I also found Crowborough’s location using Google maps (I did the same forHebdenBridge) and then using Google and Wikipedia located where A. A. Milne lived and where 100 Acre Wood was (500 Acre Wood in reality).
For questions a) finding that a book had been written on the subject gave validity to what I had read on Wikipedia. I also tired searching ‘Bill Archer’ on the Guardian website and found references to his asset stripping. Unfortunately, the Guardian’s web searches only go back to 1999 and sale of Brighton’s ground happened in 1997. For question b) I checked the Wikipedia citation for Flying Freehold from The Independent which indicated that this legal arrangement exists. For question c) the validity of claims is more difficult to ascertain although the number of different websites stating the same would suggest the claims are true.
I found with all three questions I could have gone on researching. For example, I stopped with question b) when I found myself looking on Google Maps for Mytholmroyd (Ted Hughes’s birth place) and realised in spite of enjoying myself I had gone off task. I think we have all found ourselves going of task while researching on the web. I think we did this in pre-Internet days too where you could spend hours researching using encyclopaedias, but the ubiquitous nature of Internet access and the huge amount of information held on the web means it is much easier to pursue lines of enquiry in the moment they occur to us.
I think Google and Wikipedia can be good places to start researches; the information found using these tools then needs to be validated which I think I did. The main reason we use Google and Wikipedia is that it is that is an uncomplicated and fast way to search for information, though we must exercise caution and be critical of the veracity of the information we find. An ‘information literate’ way of doing any search is to be critical; do not take information you find on the Internet (or any where) at face value. We need to check references and citations; we need to look at the URL and ask ourselves if this is a reputable and credible website or just a page that someone has put together to express their personal point of view. We need to build our own critical framework to direct and assess the validity of the content of our searches and also we need to reflect on our framework of inquiry and modify or re-think it based on what we discover through our research.