Chapter 8 Technology Skills
8.2 Internet Research
The internet has become an invaluable tool to find out information. We have more information than we can deal with right at our fingertips. It wasn’t always that way.
I don’t necessarily want to age myself, but when I went to university, outside of our textbooks, the only place we could access accurate information for research was at libraries (physical buildings) and we were limited by the library’s open hours, which didn’t always work with our schedules. We also had to physically go to the libraries which were often a distance to travel. Many of the resources (e.g. encyclopedias) could not be borrowed, so you had to use them in the building. Also, if other students beat you to it, the books you wanted were often unavailable as they had been checked out already and you had to wait until others returned the books, often weeks later. Ir was even more frustrating to be unable to find the desired information at all. That rarely happens anymore, as the internet is a source of information from around the world, not just from your local library.
— Mary Shier, College of the Rockies
You can use search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo to research general topics. This can often lead you to related terms or topics for other searches.
But with all the information available on the internet, you need to know how to discern what information is useful and accurate. The internet is full of information that is based on people’s uneducated opinions. Worse than that, it is full of information intended to further specific agendas, to impact people’s beliefs and ideas with biased trains of thought, or to sway people into investing their money and resources.
There are sources of information that are deemed credible, and these are where you want to focus your energy. Using information which has been scientifically proven or studied using authentic practices is key. Using search engines such as GoogleScholar will help filter information, and identify material that is from credible sources.
Libraries are great sources for online academic journals. These are documents that have been peer-reviewed by academics and experts in the field who verify that accurate and verifiable methods were used to come to their conclusions. Librarians can help you find credible sources for your topics of research. Your college or university library is a great place to start. On their website they likely have links to academic journals that you can search by field, topic, or author. Often librarians will do workshops for internet research to help new students. There are also inter-library loans for resources if you can’t find what you are looking for in your institution’s library. Educational institutions often have subscriptions to allow students to access national online academic databases.
See the library services at College of the Rockies to check out how simple it is to search for and access academic journals and databases online. Check out their research guide to search fields of study. Alternately, check out the online library services at your own institution.
As well as school libraries, public libraries are also a great source of information. Public libraries are often accessible online, so you can do your research for resources from home before going there. You can see if the books you want are available locally or need to be ordered in from another library. You can see how many copies are currently available and can put resources on hold to ensure no-one snags them while you are on your way to pick them up.
Some of the main differences between academic (college and university) libraries and public libraries include:
|Academic libraries||Public libraries|
Academic libraries are great for accessing the most relevant and up-to-date information on changing fields such as health care and scientific discoveries. Public libraries are useful for accessing information on topics not usually available in academic journals and current research, or information about topics for which the educational institution is not responsible for teaching. It is always a good idea to start with your school library and then move to the public library if you can’t find what you are looking for.
There are bookmarking tools on most web browsers, such as Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Chrome. This is helpful when you find sites on the internet that you want to return to. Similar to putting a bookmark in a book, this keeps a short cut back to the chosen web page. This is useful when you are researching sources for your assignments.
Use Google Scholar to find an interesting article on a topic of interest. Then bookmark the site so that you can return to it later. Close the page and use the bookmark to return to the site. You can even start organizing your bookmarks according to topic or category or course.