Thursday, 19 May 2016 02:37

How to Do Internet Research


The internet has made researching a topic easier than ever before. Instead of making a trip to the library, people with internet access can simply pull up a search engine, type, and click away. But, in addition to making it easier to access information, the web has also made it easier to access misinformation.However, by following some simple rules, you can avoid being fooled or misinformed by a phony, inaccurate, or biased web source.

1-Knowing Where to Begin

Decide where to start your search. If your employer, college, or university provides you with a search engine or directory, begin there. If you have access to a library database of research articles, such as EBSCOhost, start there. Library databases provide you with access to peer-reviewed research, which is the gold standard for academic study. “Peer-reviewed” means that top experts in the field have reviewed the research to make sure it is accurate, trustworthy, and informed before publishing it. Even if you’re just trying to learn something for your own personal benefit, academic research will provide you with the most up-to-date, reliable information.

You can usually access these databases through your home library’s website. Some academic and universities libraries may require a password if you are accessing them remotely (from somewhere other than in the library itself).

If you don’t have access to a library, try using Google Scholar for your searches. You can find academic research through this search engine, and Google Scholar will show you where you can find free copies of the articles online.

2- Look for subject-specific databases.

Depending on the area of your research, you have several options for online databases specific to your field. For example, if you are looking for research on education, the ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) is sponsored by the United States Department of Education and provides peer-reviewed research and informational materials on education topics. If you’re looking for medical or scientific research, PubMed, sponsored by the United States National Library of Medicine, is a great place to start.

3-Ask a librarian.

If you have access to a library, make an appointment to speak with your reference librarian. These people are specially trained in helping you access the best research and knowledge available. They can help you find sources and also help you determine whether sources are credible.

4-Use regular search engines with caution.

Search engines crawl the web indexing pages by reading the words and phrases that appear on those pages. From there, the process is automated. Each search engine has an algorithm that’s used to rank results for specific searches. This means that no human is vetting the accuracy of the results. The “top” result is simply the result of an algorithm. It’s not an endorsement of the content or quality of the result.

Most search engines can be “gamed” by savvy websites in order to ensure their content comes up first. Moreover, each search engine has its own algorithm, and some tailor their results based on your browsing history. So the “top” result on Google will not necessarily be the “top” result on Yahoo, even with the exact same search phrasing.

Be aware that simply because you find information online doesn’t make it credible or authoritative. Anyone can make a webpage, and the amount of poor, unverified, and just plain wrong information often outweighs the good stuff online. To help you sift through the useless stuff, talk to your teacher or librarian, and use library or academic search engines when possible.

Choose your keywords carefully. For any given inquiry, there are an almost limitless number of potential word and phrase choices you could enter into a search engine. Therefore, it’s important to think carefully about what you hope your search will find, as well as try multiple different search combinations.

If you’re using an academic search engine, such as your library’s search feature, try using a combination of keywords and Boolean Operators, or words you can use to narrow down your search: AND, OR, and NOT.

For example, if you are doing research on feminism in China, you might run a search for “feminism AND China.” This will return results that include both of those topic keywords.

You can use OR to run searches for related keywords. For example, you could search for “feminism OR feminist OR social justice.” This would return results that contain one or more of those terms.

You can use NOT to exclude keywords from your search. For example, you could search for “feminism AND China NOT Japan.” You would not get any results that included Japan.

You can use quote marks to search for full phrases. For example, if you want to search for academic performance, you would search for the whole phrase inside quotation marks: “academic performance.” Be aware, though, that using quotation marks will kick out any result that isn’t an exact match. For example, you would not get results about “school performance” or “academic functioning” because they are not worded exactly the way you searched.

Use specific keyword phrases to locate the most relevant information. For example, if you are looking for information social welfare expenditures in the U.S., you’re more likely to get the results you want by searching for “total yearly amount spent on welfare programs in U.S.” than searching for “welfare,” which would bring up definitions of welfare, types of welfare in other countries, and thousands more results you don’t want. Be aware, though, that you can’t always find information like this -- the more words you enter, the fewer results you’re likely to get.

Use alternate words or keyword phrases to locate additional research sources. For example, if you are researching “welfare,” consider using “safety net” or “social programs” or “public assistance” in place of “welfare” to find different results. In many cases, your word choice might unintentionally bias your results, since terms like “welfare” are often politically loaded. Using a wider variety of terms ensures that you’ll be exposed to a broader — and therefore potentially less biased — set of sources.


World's leading professional association of Internet Research Specialists - We deliver Knowledge, Education, Training, and Certification in the field of Professional Online Research. The AOFIRS is considered a major contributor in improving Web Search Skills and recognizes Online Research work as a full-time occupation for those that use the Internet as their primary source of information.

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