For many students, the most challenging part about writing a research paper is the research. Even the best students often don’t know how to conduct research or even where to start.

But you’re in luck:

This article by experts provides a list of great research tools that will be useful at every stage of the process. The collection includes everything necessary to write a great paper, from online public libraries to dissertation databases. There are also some data analysis and data visualization research tools, as well as organizers for scholars. The list includes brief descriptions for each of the tools. All you need is to continue reading, choose the tools you like most, and get a fantastic result!

research steps

1.  Doing Research: Key Steps

Regardless of the subject field, all research has a similar structure. Such an approach facilitates the mutual understanding of scientists from neighboring or even distant domains. As a rule, scientific texts are challenging to write and read. That is why you need to observe the following procedure.

  1. Topic selection. Surprisingly, this is the most creative part of a research project. The subject area shall be topical and relevant, and the title must be concise and informative.
  2. Literature review and concept development. To write something new, you need to know what has already been written by other scientists. Study the available literature on your subject and define what statement or concept you will defend in your research.
  3. Empirical part: data collection and analysis. Accumulate the evidence to support your thesis statement.
  4. Conclusions and recommendations. Any research finishes with generalizations of the findings. You can as well give general suggestions for your successors in research.

The following sections provide you with tools and techniques to facilitate each of the four stages. There is also a list of tools helping to organize the entire research procedure.

2.  Topic Generating Tools

In science and academia, nobody receives a ready-made topic to work on. As a rule, you are given a direction in which you should look for an unexplored field of knowledge. With this direction in mind, you can brainstorm a compelling topic that would be engaging. There are multiple tools to make the task an easy one.

1 Lucidchart Lucidchart is an excellent instrument based on infographics. The diagrams in this software help to understand people’s behavior, data, and processes. The visualization allows to find out the interdependence between different phenomena. If you have a large bulk of information to process before generating a topic, this should be your choice.
2 Mind42 Mind42 is a free (ad-supported) mind mapping tool. Structure your notes here for further reference. It works as a block diagram, where units of information are connected with arrows. It is user-friendly, so you will not waste much time on preparations.
3 Visual Thesaurus This one is more about the formulation. If you have come up with a topic, but struggle with its wording, visualize it with the tool. The tool gives you a list of word associations and their relationships. By the way, the service is excellent for theoretical research as it builds word maps, provides their meanings, and suggests related terms.

3.  Research Tools for Making a Literature Review

3.1. Research Databases

So, you have created a word document and noted the title. What next? You should look for the most authoritative works in the required sphere. How do you know which ones are the most influential? There are online research tools that create lists of the most cited scientific articles.

1 Google Scholar The same company that produced the world’s top search engine also offers the world’s top scholarly search engine. Google Scholar works just like Google. But it directly links you to only publications in countless academic journals. When using the system, look at the right-hand side of the search results. There, Google Scholar shows you if a PDF is available for each article.
2 Web of Knowledge Many academic research services charge a fee. But Web of Knowledge is the most widely used. And this is for a good reason: it provides search features missing from Google Scholar. Check to see if your library offers access to the Web of Knowledge.
3 LexisNexis This is the research resource of choice for law school students and lawyers. Of course, this is an expensive service for individuals. But your school may have free access.
4 Scopus Scopus is a bibliographical base used by over five thousand academic, governmental, and corporate establishments. It searches through about 75 million entries, including 194’000 books. You can search by author, document title, or affiliation. It shows the citation rate of almost any article from any discipline. The tool also suggests similar documents by related references, which could accelerate your research.
5 Web of Science WoS is a multidisciplinary citation database trusted by more than 9 thousand institutions. It allows for the historical tracking of research questions in all spheres of knowledge. 9.1 billion cited references would suffice for the most exigent researcher. Web of Science can be used as a resource to find trusted materials in the public domain.

3.2. Digital Libraries

Once you have found enough references, you need to study them. Visiting conventional libraries is often a waste of time since many contemporary research documents are accessible on the web. Digital libraries are usually paid web research tools, but many universities and colleges purchase a subscription for their students.

1 Google Books Google Books was launched in 2004. Today, it offers full-text searches of over 25 million books. That’s a lot of reading!
2 The US Library of Congress As a leading research library, the Library of Congress has an incredible number of online resources. Their website lets you search for nearly every book ever written. You can also skim their vast online collections.
3 Project Gutenberg The goal of Project Gutenberg sounds crazy. They aim to digitize every book that is not under copyright. In brief, they offer almost every classic book published before 1900.
4 JSTOR This database searches for books, primary sources, and journals. It provides free access to open community collections of museums, public libraries, and archives. The resource has a special offer due to COVID-19 displacement of students, offering free use of unlicensed materials. Still, only the participating educational institutions are eligible. You can share your lists with other users if you wish.
5 ScienceDirect ScienceDirect focuses on medical, technical, engineering, and scientific research, but humanities are also covered. It provides access to foundational and theoretic materials and the latest findings. You can search by keywords, author, title of book or journal, volume, issue, and page. All the literature is peer-reviewed and can be trusted.
6 ResearchGate ResearchGate provides more than 135 million publication pages. The tool is an excellent solution to keep up with the latest research news. It allows sharing your research with peers, collaborating with them across the continents, and asking for expert support. You can as well track how many people have read or referenced your work.
7 Wiley Online Library Here you can access an extensive collection of books and reference resources during 48 hours on a pay-per-view basis. Many articles are available for paid download for lifetime use. It can be done without a subscription. Through this resource, you can find reliable user guides, training videos, and webinars.

3.3. Discipline-Oriented Libraries

If you are working in a narrow scientific field, multidisciplinary libraries may not meet your expectations and needs. Besides, if various disciplines discuss your research question, the search for references becomes a daunting task. Then you should explore discipline-oriented libraries. They function just like any other digital library but provide access to works in only one area of knowledge.

1 Project MUSE Johns Hopkins University hosts this web resource. It mainly focuses on digital articles and book chapters on humanities and social sciences.
2 PubMed Central The U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine offers PubMed Central. This is a free source for almost 4 million academic articles on biology and medicine.
3 IEEE Xplore This is the place to start if your research focuses on any of the many engineering fields.
4 arXiv Cornell University’s arXiv is the most extensive collection of open-source papers in mathematical fields. Subjects range from physics to statistics and finance.

3.4. Dissertation Databases

Ph.D. theses are usually written by young scientists. They are interested in being cited as much as possible, as it raises their researcher’s status. For this reason, top universities allow free access to Masters’ and Ph.D. papers written by their students. You can use these databases in your research.

1 PQDT Open Proquest is the most extensive open-access dissertation database. It provides full-text versions of theses & dissertations on a range of disciplines.
2 MIT Theses This archive contains every dissertation and thesis completed at MIT since 2004. But some date back to the 1800s. The complete collection contains more than 50000 texts.
3 Stanford University Libraries The graduate work of over a hundred thousand Stanford students is searchable from anywhere in the world.
4 UColorado Libraries Since 1997, the University of Colorado has archived every one of their Ph.D. dissertations here.
5 IDEALS At the University of Illinois, students have the option of depositing their theses on IDEALS. And you have the option of searching for their dissertations!
6 FAS Theses & Dissertations Last but not least, check out Harvard’s archive of dissertations begun in 2012. It’s one of the most famous universities in the world for a very good reason.

4.  Research Tools for Data Analysis

Data analysis is an essential part of any empirical research. It requires discipline-specific skills and knowledge of research instruments. Below you can find just a small share of data analysis tools available online or downloadable for most operating systems.

1 MS Excel Many people know it, but few of us can use its functionality. Its principal benefit is that this program is available in the MS Office package. It is an old tool, but it is the best for simple statistics, customizable graphics, and data visualization.
2 SPSS SPSS or Statistical Package for the Social Sciences is the most popular statistical software among human behavior researchers. It allows for parametric and non-parametric studies, descriptive statistics, and graphic visualization of the findings. You can also write scripts for automated analysis or more advanced statistical research.
3 R-project This package is free and widely used in many disciplines. Its toolboxes (or plugins) simplify any data processing. The functionality is the best among similar software solutions. It requires a certain knowledge of coding. Still, you can discuss any issues with the extended community that builds and improves the package.
4 Stata Stata is more functional than SPSS but simpler than R. Detailed user guides and tons of valuable information on forums can help you resolve almost any issue. This paid software is available for any platform. It is user-friendly and easily automated.

5.  Data Visualization Tools

When your research findings are ready, the worst thing you can do is pour all the statistical data on your future readers. Visualization of all those percentages, ratios, and correlations makes your paper engaging and easy to follow. Respect your reader’s time and try not to turn your research paper into a quiz.

1 Google Charts This is an excellent and totally free example of data visualization tools. Its interactive charts are explicitly designed to be embedded online. It offers a wide range of chart formats to choose from. The most significant benefit is its ability to work with dynamic data. However, Google Charts have limited support, namely tutorials and forum discussions.
2 Tableau Tableau astonishes with the number of data uploading options. Besides, it has a desktop, online, and free public versions. Unlike Google Charts, it has multiple video tutorials, so only the lazy will not master it. Still, its paid versions are expensive (about $70), and the public version does not permit you to keep your data private.
3 Infogram Infogram has a free version offering basic functionality and tiered pricing for the paid version. Its drag-and-drop editor is user-friendly and intuitive. The tool allows for interactive visualizations to be integrated into websites and apps. Its drawback is the small number of built-in data sources, as compared to other programs.
4 D3.js This is a free, open-source JavaScript library to manage data documents. People without programming skills can easily use software tools to create visualizations. Multiple types of charts and a customizable interface make it convenient and understandable. Still, programming knowledge will be beneficial when working with this software.

6.  Tools to Organize Your Research Process

Good organization is something needed on every research step. Below is a list of the most useful organizational tools for scholars.

1 Scrivener This tool unites the functions of a typewriter, ring-binder, and scrapbook. The trial version lasts for 30 days and includes all the features of the full version. This period is enough to understand whether you enjoy working in this program and complete a short project. It provides you with multiple methods of how to enjoy your research.
2 Zotero This is a excellent option for theoretical research that includes numerous citations. It is an open-source program facilitating the process of quoting and indicating the sources. It also collects and structures your information. These structures are tagged with keywords, which is very convenient for large-scale projects. Zotero has a function that creates a bibliography in any citation style.
3 Mendeley Mendeley creates a personal library directly from your browser tabs and desktop files. In a few clicks, you can generate citations and references to your library list. It has a function of personalized recommendations to stay informed about the newest research results. Besides, here you can browse information about more than 5’000 funding organizations and their grants.

Most people work with the software they are used to, ignoring the new and more functional alternatives. It is often rewarding to invest your time into exploring a new tool than to research and write your thesis in the same old way. Share your opinion about the described instruments in the comments and suggest your favorite ones!


Published in Online Research

There are many different types of freelance writing jobs, but one of the most common is article writing. Whether this be blog posts, feature articles or news stories, there’s always one thing in common when it comes to freelance articles: they all involve research.

We’ve covered tips for researching your novel… Now it’s time to learn about researching as a freelance writer!

While you may have established your own freelance writing niche, chances are at least some of the time you’ll be writing about topics on which you’re not an expert. In these cases, some real research is required.

Contrary to what people might think, it’s not as easy as just Googling a few keywords and tapping out an article from there. There’s much more involved – and there are some valuable research tips and tricks that can make the article-writing process a whole lot easier.

List of six essential guidelines for researching freelance articles

1. Verify your sources

The first and perhaps most important guideline is to always verify the sources you use when compiling an article.

There’s nothing worse than submitting a piece only to have readers (or your client) pointing out mistakes or inaccuracies. So whenever you’re using information or quotes from other sources, be extra-sure they’re reliable, accurate and trustworthy.

This point is particularly important to keep in mind when using online sources. Remember that anyone can post anything online these days, and that the internet is littered with unreliable information!

As a general guideline, look for sources that have the following qualities:

  • Recently published. A source that is, say, ten years old might contain outdated information as compared to one that was published within the last year. It’s often best to stick to the most recent stuff you can find, especially online.
  • Reputable author, publisher or platform. Look carefully at the origin of the source. Is it a website, publisher or ‘expert’ you’ve never heard of? If so, it’s worth doing a little extra research to ensure the source is reputable. You’ll usually be safe with government and educational sources, but others such as online news sites and blogs might require more thorough vetting.
  • Well-written. It’s relatively safe to say that if a source (especially online) is riddled with spelling and grammar errors, it’s likely to contain factual errors as well.
  • Can be corroborated with other sources. If you’ve found the same information in multiple sources, that’s generally a good indicator that it’s reliable, provided it adheres to all the above qualities as well.

Depending on the format and style of your piece, it’s a good idea to provide references or links to your verified sources throughout or at the end of your article.

2. Use a multi-resource approach

In today’s digital world, it can be easy to forget that there are other sources of information beyond the internet. But when you’re researching freelance articles, it helps to take on a multi-resource approach where possible.

Venture out from behind your computer screen and consult other sources: books, magazines, journals, documentaries, etc. Your local library is your friend! And don’t forget that people can be resources, too – more on that below.

However, as freelancer Carol Tice points out, there is such a thing as too much research…

Do you drum up a book’s worth of research for every 750-word article you write? … This turns the writing process into a time-sucking nightmare, as you have way too much material to juggle and have to make painful decisions to leave out interesting stuff.”

Weigh up the type and length of article, as well as the amount you’re being paid for it, before launching into a full-blown all-avenues research session. The multi-resource approach might not be needed for shorter, less comprehensive articles; save it for your more in-depth pieces.

3. Try some Google search hacks

While we do recommend a multi-resource approach, there’s no denying that the humble search engine is often a freelance writer’s best friend. The whole online world is at your fingertips with Google – but are you using it to its full potential?

You might not be aware of some of the handy search hacks you can use with Google. Try out the following next time you’re diving into some research.

  • Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases. For example, if you want to search for an exact quote to attribute its source, add quotation marks when you type it into Google: “That’s one small step for man”.
  • Search for results from one specific website using site:[insert domain]. For example, searching “freelance writer” would bring up all results with that exact phrase from Writer’s Edit!
  • Use AND/OR commands to narrow down or broaden your searches. For example, if you’re researching the benefits of cryptocurrencies and you search Bitcoin AND Ethereum benefits, Google will only show you results containing both the words ‘Bitcoin’ and ‘Ethereum’. If you search Bitcoin OR Ethereum benefits, you’ll see results containing either of those keywords, but not necessarily both.

There are plenty more Google search hacks you can use, so jot down the ones you find most handy and keep a reference list nearby when researching freelance articles.

4. Talk to people

As we mentioned above, there are more sources of information than just the internet… And one of the best sources you can find when researching freelance articles is a real live person.

Sometimes it’s necessary to seek first-hand information by reaching out to real people. Whether this is for a formal interview, a casual chat or just a quick question, the direct human insight can really make an article shine.

Search online or ask around for the best people to contact about a particular topic. When you’ve found someone you want to reach out to, send them a polite email explaining who you are, what you’re writing about, and why you’d like to talk to them.

If you organise an in-person or over-the-phone interview, here are a few tips…

  • Prepare adequately. Draw up a specific list of questions you want to ask to keep you on track throughout the conversation. It also helps to find out what you can about the person so you have some background information to go on. At the end of the conversation, ask if there’s anything you haven’t touched on that they’d like to share.
  • Focus on listening rather than talking. It sort of goes without saying, but the interview should consist mostly of the other person talking! Listen carefully to what they’re saying and never interrupt.
  • Record the interview (with permission). This can help you stay more focused during the actual conversation, as you won’t be madly scribbling notes the whole time. You can listen back later and jot down the most important insights, as well as direct quotes.

5. Use your research to form an article outline

So you’ve finished the researching stage! Congrats. But before you jump right in and start writing, it helps to outline your article using the research you’ve done so far.

Creating a rough outline or plan for your article has many benefits. It provides a solid structure for your piece; it makes things less overwhelming by breaking down your article into small sections you can complete one at a time; and it ensures you won’t leave out any of the valuable research you’ve done.

Your rough plan might look something like the following:

  • Introduction
  • Main point 1
    • Supporting point 1
    • Supporting point 2
  • Main point 2
    • Supporting point 1
    • Supporting point 2
  • Conclusion

Under each of these headings, jot down notes about the aspects of your research you plan to use in that particular section. Then you can start to write in earnest, using your outline to guide you through the process.

6. Keep your research organized

When you’re regularly researching freelance articles – especially if you’re completing multiple articles at the same time – things can get a little overwhelming.

For this reason, it’s important to keep your research organised. This is especially true for longer, more in-depth pieces that require more research.

Here are a few tips for keeping things organised:

  • Use folders to organise your research. You might like to create a master folder for each article you’re writing, then create sub-folders within it for different aspects of the topic, or different formats of research (e.g. online articles, interviews, etc.). Keeping everything in neatly labelled folders will make it easier to sort through and access all your research.
  • Remove any excess/unused files. When you first start researching, you’ll probably save anything and everything that seems relevant to the topic. Once you’ve narrowed it down to the information you’ll actually be using, get rid of anything else to reduce clutter.
  • Separate current and completed work. Have one ‘current’ folder for the articles you’re currently working on, and one ‘archive’ folder for recently completed articles. You never know – some past research might come in handy one day for a future article!
  • Back up your work and research. Cloud systems like Google Drive or Dropbox are handy organisational tools for freelance writers that allow you to save a backup copy of all your documents.

What are your best tips and techniques for researching freelance articles? Share with us in the comments!


Published in Online Research

One of the recent issues that have emerged within the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is that of bias in computer vision. Many experts are now discovering bias within AI systems, leading to skewed results in various different applications, such as courtroom sentencing programs.

There is a large effort going forward attempting to fix some of these issues, with the newest development coming from Princeton University. Researchers at the institution have created a new tool that is able to flag potential biases in images that are used to train AI systems.

The work was presented on Aug. 24 at the virtual European Conference on Computer Vision. 

Bias in AI Systems

One of the major reasons for the bias present in current AI systems is that they are often trained on large sets of images coming from online sources. These images can be stereotypical, and when they go toward developing computer vision, the result can be unintentionally influenced by models. Computer vision is what enables computers to identify people, objects, and actions. 

The tool that was developed by the researchers is open-source, and it is capable of automatically revealing potential biases in visual data sets. It works by taking action before the image sets are used to train the computer vision models, and issues surrounding underrepresentation and stereotypes can be remedied before they cause an effect. 


The new tool is called REVISE, and it relies on statistical methods to identify potential biases in a data set. It focuses on the three areas of object-based, gender-based and geography-based. 

REVISE is fully automatic and was built upon previous methods that included filtering and balancing data set images so that the user could have more control. 

The new tool relies on existing image annotations and measurements to analyze the content within a data set. Some of those existing annotations include object count and countries of origin for the images.

In one example of the tool working, REVISE showed how images of both people and flowers were different depending on gender. Males were more likely to appear with flowers in ceremonies or meetings, and females were more likely to appear with flowers in paintings or staged scenarios.

Olga Russaskovsky is an assistant professor of computer science and principal investigator of the Visual AI Lab. The paper was co-authored with graduate student Angelina Wang and associate professor of computer science, Arvind Narayanan.

After the tool identifies discrepancies, “then there’s the question of whether this is a totally innocuous fact, or something deeper is happening, and that’s very hard to automate,” Russaskovsky said. 

Underrepresented or Misrepresented Regions

Various regions around the world are underrepresented in computer vision data sets, and this can lead to bias in AI systems. One of the findings was that a dramatically larger amount of images come from the United States and European countries. REVISE also revealed that images from other parts of the world often do not have image captions in the local language, meaning many could come from a tourist’s view of a nation. 

“…this geography analysis shows that object recognition can still be quite biased and exclusionary and can affect different regions and people unequally,” Russaskovsky continued. 

“Data set collection practices in computer science haven’t been scrutinized that thoroughly until recently,” said Wang.  When it comes to image collection, they are “scraped from the internet, and people don’t always realize that their images are being used [in data sets]. We should collect images from more diverse groups of people, but when we do, we should be careful that we’re getting the images in a way that is respectful.”

Vicente Ordonez-Roman is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Virginia. 

“Tools and benchmarks are an important step … they allow us to capture these biases earlier in the pipeline and rethink our problem setup and assumptions as well as data collection practices,” said Ordonez-Roman. “In computer vision, there are some specific challenges regarding representation and the propagation of stereotypes. Works such as those by the Princeton Visual AI Lab help elucidate and bring to the attention of the computer vision community some of these issues and offer strategies to mitigate them.”

The new tool developed by the researchers is an important step to help remedy the bias present in AI systems. Now is the time to fix these issues, as it will become much more difficult as the system progress and get more complex. 

[Source: This article was published in By Alex McFarland - Uploaded by the Association Member: Daniel K. Henry]
Published in Internet Technology

“We believe that the main challenge lies in the programming paradigm mismatch between existing software libraries and AutoML”

Recently, Google Brain researchers have introduced a new way of programming automated machine learning (AutoML) based on symbolic programming. The researchers also proposed PyGlove, a general symbolic programming library for Python, to implement the symbolic formulation of AutoML. 

AutoML, designed to fill the machine learning industry’s talent gap, is gaining traction among various organizations. Here, we discuss the challenges AutoML faces and how to resolve them using symbolic programming.

Why This Research

According to the researchers, existing machine learning software libraries are quite limited in handling the dynamic interactions among automated machine learning components. For instance, efficient neural architecture search (NAS) algorithms, such as DARTs, ENAS, demand an implementation coupling between the search algorithm and search space. 

It is also challenging to implement a complex search flow, such as searching architectures within a loop of searching hardware configurations. The researchers stated, “We believe the main challenge lies in the programming paradigm mismatch between existing software libraries and AutoML. 

“Most existing libraries are built on the premise of immutable programs, where a fixed program is used to process different data. On the contrary, AutoML requires programs to be mutable, as they must be dynamically modified by another program whose job is exploring the search space,” they added.

Due to such inconsistency, predefined interfaces for search algorithms and search spaces struggle to accommodate the unanticipated interactions, making it challenging for AI researchers to try new AutoML approaches. In light of these limitations, the researchers have developed a new method to program automated ML. 

Use of Symbolic Programming

Symbolic programming, originated from LISP, allows a program to manipulate its components as if they were plain data. The researchers reformulated AutoML as an automated process to manipulate ML programs symbolically. 

Under the new formulation, programs act as mutable objects that can be cloned as well as modified. These mutable objects can be expressed as standard machine learning concepts where all parts of the machine learning program are mutable. Through symbolic programming, programs can be modified, resulting in dynamic interactions between the child program, search space, and search algorithm in an AutoML program.

How It Works

AutoML is an automated process of searching for a child program from a search space to maximize a reward. The researchers broke down the process into a sequence of symbolic operations. Meaning, a child program is turned into a symbolic child program. The symbolic program is further hyperified into a search space by replacing some of the fixed parts with to-be-determined specifications. 

During the search, the search space materializes into different child programs based on search algorithm decisions. It can also be rewritten into a super-program to apply complex search algorithms such as efficient NAS (ENAS).

About PyGlove

PyGlove is a general symbolic programming library on Python. Using this library, Python classes, as well as functions, can be made mutable through brief Python annotations, making it easier to write AutoML programs. 

The library also allows AutoML techniques to be quickly dropped into preexisting machine learning pipelines while benefiting open-ended research which requires extreme flexibility. PyGlove implements various popular search algorithms, such as PPO, Regularised Evolution and Random Search.

Research Contributions

  • Reformulated AutoML under the symbolic programming paradigm. The researchers simplified the programming interface for automated machine learning by accommodating unanticipated interactions among the child programs, search spaces, and search algorithms through a mutable object model.
  • Introduced PyGlove, a general symbolic programming library for Python that implements the symbolic formulation of AutoML. With this library, automated ML can be quickly dropped into preexisting ML programs, with all program parts searchable, allowing rapid exploration on different dimensions of AutoML.
  • Demonstrated the expressiveness of PyGlove in real-world search spaces. The research showed how PyGlove allows AutoML practitioners to change search spaces, search algorithms and search flows with minimum code.

Wrapping Up

Researchers said PyGlove library could reduce the engineering cost when exploring complex search flows. 

They concluded, ‘We see a big potential in symbolic programming/PyGlove in making machine learning researchers more productive. Symbolic programming and PyGlove makes it easier to develop search-based programs which could be used in a broad spectrum of research and product areas.’

 [Source: This article was published in By Ambika Choudhury - Uploaded by the Association Member: Rene Meyer]
Published in Search Engine

There is no boundary in online learning, you are allowed to explore almost all the knowledge available on the internet. Web research tools help us to find the correct thing and research on it. There is a huge variety of courses to choose from, all you need to have is time and a desire to learn.

Learning online is not even costly, most of the learning sources are free. Few websites have paid courses, although those are excellent! Online learners can get access to a lot of university libraries for data collection. In online learning, you don’t need to reach a particular place, your research can be run from anywhere. So, it provides you a better opportunity to concentrate on your research as you can customize your learning environment. There are chances to participate in online tests and exams, some of them provide certificates also. Online schools and Online colleges have been helping this generation a lot. You can google for knowing how online classes work.

For an easy and perfect online learning, your web research technique should be correct. There are some web research tools that would help if you know the perfect usage. Students, traders, industries, researchers, professors all over the world are the users of those web research tools. They make use of these in order to learn, innovate and make things. Let’s take a look at the helpful tools for online research:

1. Reliable Search Engines

For web research, It would be the primary step to enter on a search engine. Google is the largest search engine on the web. Also, other search engines are popular with online learners. Some of them are specialized in certain research subjects also.


Search engines show results on the keywords that a user searches for. As search results, millions of pages, video links, website links are shown. Not only search results but these web research tools also provide other services like email, instant messaging, business apps, academic apps, etc. There are question & answer communities in the search engines that sometimes help more than a search engine. Overall, search engines are a great way of web research for online learners.

2. Online Encyclopedias

Digital encyclopedias have a great collection of information about things. Academic disciplines to spiritual practices, business knowledge to technical knowledge, you will find detailed information about everything in the encyclopedia. If it is used efficiently, online encyclopedias can be used as web research tools. An encyclopedia is designed with thousands of information sources using universities, news publishers, governments, research industries and so on.

The Canadian Encyclopedia
Digital Universe
New World Encyclopedia

Online learners love to explore these encyclopedias. Especially, university students need them so much because they get detailed research information about any matter. They need data collection for their study, projects, and research. Ph.D. students always visit the worldwide encyclopedias for researching on their required field of study.

3. Books and Thesis Sources

These sources are also considered as great web research tools. Online learners choose books and thesis sources as their field of research. One of the most significant advantages of searching these sources is, you can read millions of books that are available in universities, research centers and libraries around the world. It is amazing to get the chance of reading the best writers’ books from home.

Google Books
The US Library of Congress
National Library of Australia
Open Thesis
Stanford University Libraries

Web research sources are the ultimate collections of data, internet users explore these and get their needed knowledge, news and information. Those knowledge are applied in new innovation, product design, business strategies, chemical research, scientific research, market research, academic innovation and so on.

[Source: This article was published in By SALMAN SUNNY - Uploaded by the Association Member: Logan Hochstetler]

Published in Online Research

Google gives a beginner-friendly explanation of how it improves search results in a new video published to the company’s YouTube channel.

How does Google improve Search? In this video, a look at how we research, test, experiment and seek scalable solutions, if issues arise: Also learn more at our How Search Works site:

The video is clearly aimed at an audience that’s less familiar with Google Search than the average SEO or website owner.

Google tends to publish this level of content on ‘Google’ YouTube channel, whereas more advanced content resides on the ‘Google Webmasters’ channel.

Maybe it’s the search geek in me, but I always find it interesting to see how Google explains search to a general audience.

If you’re anything like me then you may find it interesting as well.

Here’s a recap of different points that are touched on in the video.

Video recap: How Google Search continues to improve results

Contrary to what some people might think, Google cannot make changes to individual search results pages.

Rather, it implements systems that improve search results as a whole.

“No system is perfect, and sometimes ours may miss the mark and show you content that isn’t really that relevant or doesn’t come from the most reliable sources.

You might think that we can just fix the results for that specific search, but with billions of searches per day there’s no way that anyone can manually decide which pieces of content should be ranked above others.

Here’s what we do instead: make search better.

We do that by coming up with improvements to our systems that we think might help not just those queries that turn up unreliable or irrelevant results, but a broad range of similar searches.”

Thousands of improvements per year

The video goes on to reveal that, in 2019 alone, Google made around 3,620 improvements to search results.

That’s an average of nearly 10 improvements a day.

“These changes help us with ranking our blue link web results, and our search features like autocomplete, knowledge panels, and featured snippets.”

To be sure, not all of those 3,000+ improvements are algorithm updates.

Improvements can also involve editing information within search features.

Although Google cannot make changes to individual SERPs, it can make changes to specific search features.

Google gives an example of incorrect information appearing in a recipe card in search results.


Google can manually edit these search features at will, which is usually what happens when it’s alerted to the mistakes by users.

“Every now and then we do have to remove incorrect or policy violating information from search features ourselves.

Sometimes we’re alerted to issues based on feedback from our users. Then we look into what caused the issue, take what we’ve learned, and keep improving our systems with the goal of preventing this kind of thing from happening again.”

Google concludes the video by acknowledging that no system is perfect. But the company is committed to making improvements every day to help people find what they’re looking for.

See the full video below:

[Source: This article was published in By Matt Southern - Uploaded by the Association Member: David J. Redcliff]

Published in Search Engine

Market research plays a key role in helping businesses to better understand their customers and marketplace, to help them make more strategic decisions.

This week’s blog explores the topic of market research.

Marketing team discussing a marketing strategy

What is Market Research?

Market research is the organized effort of planning, gathering, recording and analysing information to better understand a target market. This includes factors such as market size, the competition and customer types.

“Information used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues…” (American Marketing Association, 2004)

Research is a key component to guide businesses with important strategy decisions, such as changing elements of their marketing mix and how this is likely to impact customer behaviours.

The research process first identifies and formulates the problem, then determines the research design such as the research method and collection of data and the final stage is the analysis and providing recommendations based on the research findings.

Why is market research so valuable?

There are many strategic and tactical decisions that businesses make in the process of identifying satisfying customer needs. There are many uncontrollable environmental factors such as economic conditions, politics, and social changes that complicate marketplaces. Analytics can show a business what is happening, but you can only learn so much. Market Research helps a business discover the ‘why’.

Research provides relevant, accurate and up to date information to understand a marketplace at a current point in time. This new knowledge of relevant information informs decision-making by reducing uncertainty. Often bad decisions in business are the result of guessing instead of putting any time and effort into researching what the customer would think or how the market would react.

You will never think on behalf of your customers or experience a product or service in the same way. Testing your assumptions means you will not waste time and money on a bad idea.

Research helps businesses improve decision making to create better products, improve the customer experience and improve their marketing to attract and convert more leads. This leads to three broad goals for market research. First is to better understand the marketplace; second, to better understand your customers; third, to monitor performance.

Gain a better understanding of your market

Without understanding a market, a business is just throwing something out there, hoping it will work. Do not learn from mistakes, look for the opportunities first and then tailor your products to suit.

A market analysis is a powerful tool to study the dynamics of a specific market, whether it is online, or localised. This analysis helps a business understand market trends to discover opportunities and guide strategy. A business needs to identify internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. This is a SWOT analysis.

Part of understanding a market is knowing what your competition is doing better than you, to improve. A similar analysis a business can use through research is a PESTEL analysis, which investigates Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal factors in a marketplace.

Some of the broad goals business have for market research are:

  • planning and implementing marketing strategies
  • a competitor analysis
  • risk analysis
  • identifying market trends and opportunities
  • learning the potential for a market
  • target market selection and market segmentation
  • product testing and refinement
  • business planning
  • understanding social, technical, and political aspects of a market

Young woman shopping at a hardware store

Getting to know your customers better

Research helps businesses understand their customers wants, needs, desires, beliefs and actions. Only then, a business can recognise whether their offerings meet those needs.

When you understand your customers better, you learn to learn how they think. You learn what they value, how they make a purchase decision, and what they think of your competitors. Once the behaviours and preferences of your target customers are better understood, you can modify your offering and accordingly the marketing to better meet their needs. This is crucial for planning a marketing strategy that aligns with not only who you are, but also what the customer is looking for.

Define your buyer persona

If your business does not already have buyer personas or understand your market segment and target customers well, this is a good place for your research to start.

Buyer Personas are fictional and generalised representations of ideal customers, created by a business to better understand them and therefore more effectively target marketing to communicate with them. Personas include characteristics such as age, gender, family, location, income and challenges.

Your research participants should then match the characteristics of your buyer personas. If you have more than one persona, focus your research on your most important personas and recruit a separate sample group for each.

Sales forecast

Monitoring performance

Market research can also help a business to monitor and evaluate their marketing or product’s performance. Large companies invest millions of dollars into product development, to ensure all that effort is worth it. Provide the right solution for a customer’s problem, at the right price, with the right marketing. There is a lot to get right… or wrong.

Ways you can test consumer opinions of new products or products in development is through focus groups and beta-testing. Companies can also analyse their existing data, such as analytics, to better understand the demand for their current products and services, to then make tweaks and improvements.

Research methods

Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the method for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyses the results, and communicates the findings and their implications.

There are two major types of market research: primary research and secondary research. Primary research is sub-divided into two research methodologies, quantitative and qualitative research; although it can be a combination of the two, called mixed methods.

One general research question guides the research; for example: How should we segment our market for product x. Or, who is the most profitable region for product y. More specific research questions follow to guide the research process and what information to gather.

Primary Research

Primary research is the design, collection and analysis of your personal data through methods such as talking to customers or observing behaviours. Primary research can be exploratory or specific. Exploratory is when research is trying to understand a certain scenario and is better suited to qualitative research such as open-ended questions with a small sample.

Specific research usually follows exploratory research and delves into more specific research queries a company may have. It is more direct towards asking certain customer segment-specific questions.

Two methodologies guide the design of primary research — qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research aims to explore feelings, behaviours and experiences — things we cannot measure with numbers and statistics. Common qualitative research methods include in-depth interviews, focus groups, and observation. The idea is to gain deeper knowledge about your customers and/or target market, to find out the why behind their decision-making process.

“Qualitative research encompasses a family of approaches, methods and techniques for understanding and thoroughly documenting attitudes a behaviour… Qualitative research seeks the meanings and motivations behind behaviour as well as a thorough account of behavioural facts and implications via a researcher’s encounter will people’s own actions, words and ideas.” (Mariampolski, 2001)

Instead of asking specific questions to get an objective answer, qualitative research does not follow a scripted approach. The researcher is facilitating a conversation rather than trying to lead it. Do not ask yes/any questions, as this style of questioning can bias the outcome, through unintentionally swaying participants’ thoughts.

There should be a general focus for the session, outlining the topics you want to explore, but it should be natural and conversational with open-ended questions. You might include one scripted question such as “take me back to the day when you first decided that you needed to solve this x problem”

From this point, you guide the participants which “can you tell more about that?”, and “how…?”, “who…?”, “where…”, “what…?” Just delve deeper into topics that the participant thinks are important to discuss. Get them to go deeper into their experiences.

Qualitative research goes deeper than quantitative to explore the ‘why’ instead of just the ‘what’. The general demographic information is not as important in qualitative research, as we want to understand the consumption experience itself rather than customer characteristics. Just find out a little bit of background information to give context to the participant, such as their career and family life.

market research team

Quantitative research

Quantitative research aims to describe and explain a situation or problem (attitudes, opinions, behaviours), through generating numerical data or data that can be easily transformed into statistical data. The aim is to be as objective as possible to be able to generalise the results for a larger population.

“Quantitative research… explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analysed using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics).” (Creswell, 1994)

Common methods of quantitative research are customer surveys, polls, questionnaires, and analysing digital analytics or secondary data. With the rise of digital technologies, mobile surveys have become increasingly popular making it far cheaper and easier to compile this kind of research.

Quantitative research typically begins with asking demographic questions to form an accurate picture of who the participants or ‘sample’ for the study are. Demographic questions are those such as gender, age and education. For example, a male under the age of 20 is going to have many differences to a woman over the age of 65. Because quantitative research focuses on numbers and statistics, a larger sample increases the validity of the results whereas qualitative research has a much smaller sample.

A substantial portion of the questions is closed-ended, meaning participants have set responses to choose from that best fit their situation. This makes large datasets fast and easy to analyse, but the data is generalised and cannot delve into the nuances that qualitative research can.

  • Some examples of quantitative survey questions are:
  • Demographic questions: Gender, age, religion, ethnicity, occupation
  • How often do you use the product: Every day, once a week, once a month, very rarely
  • What price do you think is fair for the product: $80, $100, $120, $150

How to find research participants

Once you have decided to conduct market research and choose a suitable method, you need to find participants. Research participants should be a representative sample of your target customers, as well as some of your actual customers. This will help you to understand their characteristics, challenges, and buying habits.

Ideally, your sample will also include people that researched your business but decided not to purchase. If they have chosen a competitor, you want to know why.

Finding customers is the easy part. Anybody who made a recent purchase should be in your CRM. You want to ask recent customers, as their experience will still be fresh in their minds. If you do not have a CRM, ask people when they purchase if they would like to do a brief survey.

CRM will hold information such as an email for potential customers who enquired or evaluated your services but did not make a purchase. You can also find participants through social media or online forums and other communities. Find out where your target audience spends time together. You can even create a Facebook group specifically for the study. Use your network to find participants, but they must be relevant. Stay away from friends and family, but they might know somebody. A post on Facebook and LinkedIn can be fruitful.

It might help to offer an incentive for participants to be involved in the study. You could offer something like a $50 or $100 voucher to spend 30–60 minutes to be a part of a focus group or complete a survey.

Secondary research

Also known as desk research, secondary research is a research method that uses pre-existing data. No fieldwork (e.g. no observations or surveys required), hence the term desk research. This existing data is summarised to strengthen the findings of primary research. If your data matches the findings of previous studies, it is solid evidence.

Secondary research is far quicker to compile and cost-effective than primary research as data collection is not first-hand. The kind of data you can find helps paint the ‘big picture’, such as industry trends or geographic factors.

Common sources of secondary research include:

  • Academic journals, market research, industry reports or trade publications
  • Online sources — websites, databases, publications, government data
  • In-house company data and analytics — e.g. CRM, social media

[Source: This article was published in By Daniel Hopper - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander]

Mobile Monkey CEO Larry Kim shares his tips for staying productive while working remotely.

It can be hard to make the most of your time when you’re working from home, especially when you're wearing a lot of different hats and trying to complete a lot of different tasks. There are others who have been there, and they've found some methods to improve productivity.

1. Have a single focus

If you're someone who wears a lot of different hats at work, multitasking might seem like a good idea. Whether you're doing multiple things at once or switching back and forth between tasks, chances are, none of the projects you're working on are getting the attention they deserve. It might feel like you're being more productive, but in reality, you're diminishing your productivity and stressing yourself out. Research suggests that multitasking actually negatively affects productivity and brain health. Being "in the zone," so to speak, has a psychological term associated with it—flow. A flow state is simply a mental state in which you perform whatever activity you are doing while extremely focused; you are fully involved in the process and completely immersed. You want to reach your flow state at work. So, drop one (or two, or three...) of those tasks, and just focus on one at a time. It'll improve the quality of your work and help you manage stress.

2. Block out distractions

We're all guilty of this—after all, distractions are everywhere. Sure, breaks are a necessity, but sometimes we let these things get in the way of our productivity. It's far easier to block out distractions than it is to pull yourself back to the task at hand after getting sidetracked.

Here are my tips to stay on task while working from home:

  • Take breaks as necessary
  • Close the chat windows
  • Put your phone on silent
  • Put in some headphones
  • Move to a quieter location

It can be easy to become distracted when you're not sure what tasks you have to complete. Using the Action Method by Behance is a good way to block out distractions and make sure you're getting projects done by organizing all of your ideas on paper. There are templates available that can be used in whatever method is most helpful to you. Eliminating distractions will make your productivity skyrocket, and you'll be able to get more done quicker in the end.

3. Set a time limit

Do you have a lot of tasks to complete, and no idea how to manage them all? We already discussed working on one thing at a time, but the reality is we sometimes have too much to do. It can be almost impossible to do only one thing from start to finish when we are incredibly busy at work. Here’s another solution: Set a time limit for each task you work on.

A great example of this can be found in the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is when you break up your tasks into 25-minute focused blocks of time. After each block, you take a five or 10-minute break, but after four blocks (equaling one hour total of focused work time), you take a longer break, around 15 to 30 minutes. With the Pomodoro Technique, you can eliminate multitasking while getting more done. This will help those of us who are wearing multiple hats at work to manage our various responsibilities while keeping up the quality without getting overwhelmed.

4. Set up productivity rituals

What are productivity rituals? They are whatever you want them to be. As a busy worker, you know what does and does not work for you. So why not make a ritual out of it?

Rituals aren't quite like routines. While routines are typically a specific set of things done at the same time every day, rituals are more like malleable versions of routines that you can do any time of day to help boost you forward. They don't have to be specific to work, either; you can have rituals for all parts of your day and week.

Here are some examples of rituals that you can use to increase your productivity at work:

  • Have a breakfast that you enjoy and that energizes you
  • Write down your most important To-Dos
  • Meditate as a break from projects
  • Go for a quick walk
  • Brew a cup of coffee or tea

One way you can incorporate rituals into your workweek is by following the lead of David Allen's book, “Getting Things Done.” This method involves moving tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them in a physical list and then breaking them into actionable work items. List making in the GTD method can be a ritual that you do when you need to consider which tasks need completing. Rituals help us shift our focus from task to task and improve productivity through an element of magical comfort.

"Rituals aren't quite like routines. While routines are typically a specific set of things done at the same time every day, rituals are more like malleable versions of routines that you can do any time of day to help boost you forward."

-Larry Kim

Productivity-ritual research - AOFIRS
(Photo credit):

5. Get up early

It might not be what any of us want to hear, but it's true: Waking up early can improve productivity. Aside from the simple fact that waking up early gives you more time to accomplish more tasks, it also gives you more time to care for the most important part of your day: you.

Some very busy people might be tempted to wake up early and finish up some work tasks that they didn't have time for the day before. And, sure, this will make you productive—to an extent. What will make you more productive during your actual workday, however, is taking the extra time in the morning to unwind, prepare for the day, maybe exercise and eat a nutritious breakfast?

6. Group your interruptions

We spoke already about blocking out distractions to increase your productivity at work. But sometimes blocking out distractions until you finish the task at hand simply isn't realistic. You've got a phone that's gathering notifications, you've got a grumbling stomach, and you've got coworkers that want your attention, either because they need something, want to ask a question, or simply want to chat. You can't just block all of these out all the time; we're not robots. What you can do, however, is group your interruptions so you deal with all of them at the same time.

For example, dedicate a portion of your day to checking your phone for messages and notifications, checking your personal email and dealing with coworkers' requests. If a coworker interrupts you while you're working on something, kindly ask if they can send you an email or speak to you during whatever time you allocate to your interruptions and distractions. Then, take that chunk of time during the day to deal with all of it at once. This will allow you a break from your work and a chance to catch up on non-work-related tasks or issues.

7. Outsource chores

If you're someone who's running a business, you're just starting a business, or you're simply very busy all the time, you might want to consider outsourcing some of your tasks. Outsourcing isn't reserved for huge corporations that can afford to hire people overseas or send jobs elsewhere. Realistically, outsourcing is paying someone to do a task that you can't or don't want to do yourself. And if you don't have enough time in the day for all of your to-do's, it's a great option to boost productivity.

There are a number of tasks that would be good to delegate, such as design work, research, managing phones, and setting up appointments. The most common method of outsourcing is, of course, hiring people to do these tasks. But sometimes, busy entrepreneurs don't have the means to hire straight away. Consider using a chatbot as a virtual assistant to outsource tasks that would normally be done by a personal assistant or office managers, such as answering client questions, booking appointments, giving you reminders, and more.

8. Set up email rules

Email eats up a lot of time, especially when you have hundreds of emails coming in a day. But there are solutions to help you increase your productivity. Email rules will help you manage the beast that is work email and allow you to get more important projects done with your time. To start, consider scheduling a couple of times each day to check your email.

For example, you could check-in in the morning, just after lunch, and before leaving for the day. You can also turn off your email alerts, so the constant noise notifications don't create distractions.

Consider setting up rules in whatever email service you use; this will help by flagging emails and automatically moving certain emails to various folders.

Finally, don't send emails that you don't have to send! Could it be sent in an instant message if your company uses something like Slack? If you're sending emails, think through the process and make sure that the emails you're sending are straightforward, necessary, and serve a purpose without simply decreasing your productivity level.

9. Learn from others

The best thing that anyone can do for their productivity is to try new things and see if they work. Not everyone is the same, so these tips might not work equally across the board. But there are people that have been there already; there are people that have started businesses, grown businesses, and worked their way up the ladder. Those people have been through it all, and they likely have different insights as to what works and what doesn't. Learning new productivity tips from others is a great step towards increasing your own productivity.

10. Gamify productivity

People perform best when there is instant gratification, rewards, or feedback—that's why people enjoy video games so much. You complete a task in a game, and you're instantly rewarded for your efforts. How great would it be if that was what happened while you were at work? Gamification at work isn't necessarily about turning work into a game, but more about creating an environment of fun and enjoyment at the job. It builds bonds between employees and gets them having fun—and employees who have fun on the job are more likely to perform better.

There are a number of existing apps that are used to boost productivity through gamification; consider exploring some options to make work fun for your employees and improve overall productivity.

Perfect productivity takes practice

Nothing good comes straight away. Like anything else, managing your time and improving your productivity takes practice. You'll likely need to try a number of different things before you find the methods that work for you and help you boost your own productivity. Just keep practicing. Finding the tools to work with will benefit you for the rest of your life.

[Source: This article was published in By Larry Kim - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander] 

Published in Work from Home

The civility debate sidesteps how false assumptions about harm online, coupled with the affordances of digital media, encourage toxicity

Whitney Phillips is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University and is the author of This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture and co-author of The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity and Antagonism Online.

Ryan M Milner is an Associate Professor of Communication at the College of Charleston and is author of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media and co-author of The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity and Antagonism Online.

A common lamentation online, one that spans the political divide and is forwarded by politicians and editorial boards alike, is that civility in American politics has died. It’s such a pressing concern that 80 percent of respondents to a recent NPR survey fear that uncivil speech will lead to physical violence. If only people would lower their voices, stop posting rude memes, and quit with the name-calling, we could start having meaningful conversations. We could unite around our shared experiences. We could come together as a nation.

In the current media environment, in which Twitter and Instagram are inundated with harassment, journalists are routinely threatened, and YouTube algorithms prop up reactionary extremists, we find it difficult to argue with that sentiment.

As idyllic as it might sound, however, the call to restore civility isn’t as straightforward as it appears. Civility alone isn’t enough to fix what’s broken. It might actually make the underlying problems worse. We need, instead, to consider the full range of behaviors that facilitate harm online. Yes this includes extreme, explicitly damaging cases. But it also includes the kinds of behaviors that many of us do without thinking, in fact, that many of us have already done today. These things might seem small. When we use them to connect with others, build communities, and express support, they might seem downright civil. But the little things we do every day, even when we have no intention of causing harm, quickly accumulate. Not only do these everyday actions normalize an ever-present toxicity online, they pave the way for the worst kinds of abuses to flourish.

The Civility Trap

When used as a political rallying point, appeals to civility are often a trap, particularly when forwarded in response to critical, dissenting speech. Sidestepping the content of a critique in order to police the tone of that critique—a strategy employed with particular vigor during the Kavanaugh hearings, and which frequently factors into hand-wringing over anti-racist activism—serves to falsey equate civility with politeness, and politeness with the democratic ideal. In short: you are being civil when you don’t ruffle my feathers, which is to say, when I don’t have to hear your grievance.

Besides their tendency to be adopted as bad faith, rhetorical sleights-of-hand, calls for civility have another, perhaps more insidious, consequence: deflecting blame. It’s everybody else’s behavior, they’re the ones who need to start acting right. They’re the ones who need to control themselves. In these instances, “We need to restore civility” becomes an exercise in finger pointing. You’re the one who isn’t being civil. Indeed, the above NPR survey explicitly asked respondents to identify who was to blame for the lack of civility in Washington, with four possible choices: President Trump, Republicans in Congress, Democrats in Congress, or the media. Whose fault is it: this is how the civility question tends to be framed.

Ethics do not mean keeping your voice down. Ethics do not mean keeping feathers unruffled. Ethics mean taking full and unqualified responsibility for the things you choose to do and say.

We certainly maintain that the behavior of others can be a problem, or outright dangerous. We certainly maintain that some people need to control themselves, particularly given the increasingly glaring link between violent political rhetoric and violent action. Those who trade in antagonism, in manipulation, in symbolic violence and physical violence, warrant special, unflinching condemnation.

But few of us are truly blameless. In order to mitigate political toxicity and cultivate healthier communities, we must be willing to consider how, when, and to what effect blame whips around and points the finger squarely at our own chests.

We do this not by focusing merely on what’s civil, certainly when civility is used as a euphemism for tone-policing, or when it’s employed to pathologize and silence social justice activists (as if loudly calling out injustice and bigotry is an equivalent sin to that injustice and bigotry). We do this by focusing on what’s ethical. A more robust civility will stem from that shift in emphasis. Civility without solid ethical foundations, in contrast, will be as useful as a bandaid slapped over a broken bone.

As we conceive of them, online ethics foreground the full political, historical, and technological context of online communication; contend with the repercussions of everyday online behaviors; and avoid harming others. Ethics do not mean keeping your voice down. Ethics do not mean keeping feathers unruffled. Ethics mean taking full and unqualified responsibility for the things you choose to do and say.

The Ethics of the Biomass

It’s not just that online ethics help facilitate more reflective, more empathetic, and indeed, more civil online interactions. Online ethics do even heavier lifting than that. Decisions guided by efforts to contextualize information, foreground stakes, preempt harm, and accept consequences also help combat information disorder, a term Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan use to describe the process by which misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation contaminate public discourse. Ethics are a critical, if underutilized, bulwark against the spread of such information. Without strong ethical foundations, everyday communication functions, instead, as an information sort target.

The fact that unethical—or merely ethically unmoored—behaviors contribute to information disorder is a structural weakness that abusers, bigots, and media manipulators have exploited again and again. Phillips underscores this point in a Data & Society report on the ways extremists and manipulators launder toxic messaging through mainstream journalism. The same point holds for everyday social media users. Extremists need signal boosting. They get it when non-extremists serve as links in the amplification chain, whatever a person’s motives might be for amplifying that content.

When considering how ethical reflection can cultivate civility and help stymie information disorder, biomass pyramids provide a helpful, if unexpected, entry point.

In biology, biomass pyramids chart the relative number or weight of one class of organism compared to another organism within the same ecosystem. For a habitat to support one lion, the biomass pyramid shows, it needs a whole lot of insects. When applied to questions of online toxicity, biomass pyramids speak to the fact that there are far more everyday, relatively low-level cases of harmful behavior than there are apex predator cases—the kinds of actions that are explicitly and wilfully harmful, from coordinated hate and harassment campaigns to media manipulation tactics designed to sow chaos and confusion.

When people talk about online toxicity, they tend to focus on these apex predator cases. With good reason: these attacks have profound personal and professional implications for those targeted.

But apex predators aren’t the only creatures worth considering. The bottom strata is just as responsible for the rancor, negativity, and mis-, dis- and mal- information that clog online spaces, causing a great deal of cumulative harm.

Even when a person’s motives are perfectly innocent, low-level behaviors can still be harmful. They can still flatten others into abstract avatars.

This bottom strata includes posting snarky jokes about an unfolding news story, tragedy, or controversy; retweeting hoaxes and other misleading narratives ironically, to condemn them, make fun of the people involved, or otherwise assert superiority over those who take the narratives seriously; making ambivalent inside jokes because your friends will know what you mean (and for white people in particular, that your friends will know you’re not a real racist); @mentioning the butts of jokes, critiques, or collective mocking, thus looping the target of the conversation into the discussion; and easiest of all, jumping into conversations mid-thread without knowing what the issues are. Regarding visual media, impactive everyday behaviors include responding to a thread with a GIF or reaction image featuring random everyday strangers, or posting (and/or remixing) the latest meme to comment on the news of the day.

Here is one example: recently, one of us published something on, let's say, internet stuff. Other people have written lots of things on the same general subject. One day, a stranger @-mentioned us to say that what we published was better than what someone else had published, and proceeded to explain how the other author fell short. The stranger @-mentioned the other author in the tweet. This was, we suppose, meant as a compliment to us. At the same time, it made us party to something we didn't want any part of, since just saying "thank you" would have cosigned, or seemed to cosign, the underlying insult. The other author, of course, fared much worse; the stranger didn't seem to give them the slightest passing thought.

It was a handle on Twitter to link to, not a person with feelings to consider. But of course, that stranger was wrong—no person on Twitter is just a handle to link to. And no person wants to be told in public that they are less than, for any reason. But that was the conversation, suddenly, this other author had been thrust into. One we were thrust into as well, even as the stranger thought they were saying something nice.

This strata of behavior receives far less attention than apex predator cases. Most basically, this is because each of the above behaviors, taken on their own, pales in comparison to extreme abuses. Whether emanating from platforms like YouTube, white supremacist spaces like The Daily Stormer, or even the White House, the damage done by the proverbial lions is clear, present, and often intractable. From a biomass perspective, insects seem tiny in comparison—and therefore not worth much consideration.

Less obviously, the lower strata of the biomass pyramid receives less fanfare because of assumptions about harm online. In cases of explicit abuse, bigotry, and manipulation, harm is almost always tethered to the criterion of intentionality: the idea that someone meant to hurt another person, meant to sow chaos and confusion, meant to ruin someone’s life.

In terms of classification, and of course interventionist triaging, it makes good sense to use the criterion of intentionality. Coordinated campaigns of hate, harassment, and manipulation, particularly those involving multiple participants, don’t just happen accidentally. Abusers and manipulators choose to abuse and manipulate; this is what makes them apex predators.

At the same time, however, reliance on the criterion of intentionality has some unintended consequences.

First, the criterion of intentionality discourages self-reflection in those who aren’t apex predators. If someone doesn’t set out to harm another person, that person is almost guaranteed not to spend much time reflecting on whether their behavior has or could harm others. Harm is something lions do. If you are not a lion, carry on.

But just because you’re not a lion doesn’t mean you can’t leave a nasty bite. Even when a person’s motives are perfectly innocent, low-level behaviors can still be harmful. They can still flatten others into abstract avatars. They can still weaponize what someone else said, or result in the weaponization of something you said. They can still strip a person of their ability to decide if, for example, they want a picture of themselves to be used as part of some stranger’s snarky Twitter commentary, or to be included in a conversation in which they are being publicly mocked.

From an information disorder perspective, these low-level behaviors can also be of great benefit to the lions. Retweeting false or misleading stories, even if the point is to make fun of how stupid they are, making ironic statements that, taken out of context, look like actual examples of actual hate, and generally opening the floodgates for polluted information to flow through, is what allows apex predators to cause as much damage as they do.

These actions also feed into, and are fed by, issues of journalistic amplification. The greater the social media reaction to a story, the more reason journalists have to cover it, or at least tweet about it. And the greater the journalistic response to a story, the more social media reaction it will generate. And then there are the trending topics algorithms, which do not care why people share things, just that they share things, as polluted information cyclones across platforms, accruing strength as it travels.

Because of these overlapping forces, whether or not someone means to sow discord, or spread hate, or propagate false and misleading information, discord can be sown, hate can be spread, and false and misleading information can be propagated by behaviors that otherwise don’t create a blip on the political radar.

Stacking the Deck with Digital Tools

Focusing on intentionality obscures the collective damage everyday people can do when they use social media in socially and technologically-prescribed ways. The affordances of digital media make this problem even worse by further cloaking the stakes of everyday communication.

We describe these affordances in our book The Ambivalent Internet. They include modularity, the ability to manipulate, rearrange, and/or substitute digitized parts of a larger whole without disrupting or destroying that whole; modifiability, the ability to repurpose and reappropriate aspects of an existing project toward some new end; archivability, the ability to replicate and store existing data; and accessibility, the ability to categorize and search for tagged content.

These tools don’t just allow, they outright encourage participants to flatten contexts into highly shareable, highly remixable, texts: specific images, specific GIFs, specific memes.

All creative play online owes its existence to these affordances. They are what make the internet the internet. They also make it enormously easy to sever social media avatar from offline body, and to mistake one tiny sliver of a story for an entire narrative, or to never even think about what the entire narrative might be. As a result, even the most well-intentioned among us can overlook the consequences of our actions, and never even know whose toes we might be stepping on.

In such an environment, the first step towards making more ethical choices is acknowledging how the deck has been stacked against making more ethical choices.

The second is to anticipate and try and preempt unethical outcomes. This means contending with the fact that your own contextualizing information, including your underlying motivations, become moot once tossed to the internet’s winds. You might know what you meant, or why you did what you did, particularly in cases where you’re relying on “I was just joking” excuses. But others can’t know any of that. Not due to oversensitivity, not due to them not being able to take a joke. But because they can’t read your mind, and shouldn’t be expected to try.

Another critical question to ask is what you don’t know about the content you’re sharing. How and where was something sourced? What happened to the people involved? Did they ever give consent? Who was the initial intended audience? Each of these unknowns shapes the implications, and of course the ethics, of further amplifying that content. The devil, in these cases, isn’t in the details, the devil is in the unseen, unknown, unsolicited narratives.

Finally, we must all remember that the issues we discuss online, the stories we share, the media we play with—all can be traced back to bodies. Fully-fleshed out human beings who have friends, feelings, and a family—just like each of us.

This point is particularly important for middle-class, able-bodied, cisgendered white people to reflect on (a point we make as middle-class, able-bodied, cisgendered white people ourselves). When your body—your skin color, the resources you have access to, your gender identity, your ability—has never been the source of threats, abuse, and dehumanization, it is very easy to downplay the seriousness of threats, abuse, and dehumanization. To approach them abstractly, as just words, on just the internet. The behaviors in question might not seem like a big deal to you, because they’ve never needed to be a big deal for you. Because you’ve always, more or less, been safe. This might help explain why you react the way you do, but it’s not an excuse to keep reacting that way.

So when in doubt, when you do not understand: remember that what might look like an insect to one person can act like a lion to others. Particularly when those insects are everywhere, always, clogging a person’s experience, weighing down their bodies.

Environmental Protections

The biomass pyramid shows that the distinction between big harm and small harm is, in fact, highly permeable. The big harms perpetrated by apex predators are exactly that: big and dangerous. Smaller harms are, by definition, smaller, and on their own, less dangerous. But the harm at that lower strata can still be harmful. It is also cumulative; it adds up to something massive. So massive, in fact, that these smaller harms implicate all of us—not just as potential victims, but as potential perpetrators. Just as it does in nature, this omnipresent lower strata in turn supports all the strata above, including the largest, most dangerous animals at the top of the food chain. Directly and indirectly, insects feed the lions.

Robust online ethics provide the tools for minimizing all this harm. By using ethical tools, we minimize the environmental support apex predators depend on. We also have in our own hands the ability to cultivate civility that is not superficial, that is not a trap, but that has the potential to fundamentally alter what the online environment is like for the everyday people who call it home.

[Source: This article was published in By Whitney Phillips & Ryan M Milner - Uploaded by the Association Member: Joshua Simon] 

Published in Internet Ethics

Brands need to be active on social media – but having your own voice doesn't mean you can post recklessly. Know 25 things NOT to do on social media.

Social media has the power to grow your brand into a massive empire.

But if you aren’t careful, it can do just the opposite.

Take Snapchat, for example.

In 2018, Snapchat ran an ad game called “Would You Rather?”

One of the questions asked was if users would rather “Slap Rihanna” or “Punch Chris Brown.”

The result?

Worldwide outrage and an $800 million loss for Snapchat.

Sure, the ad’s bad taste is pretty obvious. No one wants to play a game based on domestic violence.

But did you know there are other less-noticeable social media blunders that lead to a bad reputation and failure to grow your brand?

Here are some you should never do.

25 Social Media Blunders You Should Stay Away From

Stay away from these 25 mistakes, and your social media campaign will flourish.

1. Not Being Up-to-Date with Current Trends

In 2016, Wendy’s posted a meme of Pepe the Frog dressed up as their mascot.

What they didn’t know was that the cute cartoon frog had recently become an image of racism and white supremacy.

It’s not hard to imagine the response.

To avoid a mistake like Wendy’s, do a little research before posting anything on social media.

2. Posting Insensitive Content

Be humorous, but stay away from insensitive jokes.

We all remember the Yanny vs. Laurel audio clip that tore the web apart.

To jump into this trend, the U.S. Air Force’s Twitter manager posted this social media gaffe.


3. Confusing Your Business Account with Your Personal Account

It’s important to be entertaining and engaging, but don’t forget to distinguish between business posts and personal posts.

For instance, don’t post a photo of what you had for lunch on your business account (unless you run an organic diet-in-a-box food service).

4. Getting Angry When You Get Negative Comments

As your brand grows, you’ll get both positive and negative comments.

Remember, negative comments are there to help you improve.

Deal with them open-mindedly and try to solve the problem instead of lashing back.

Here’s an example from a buyer who complained at Toblerone’s Facebook Page.


Toblerone’s response?

25 Things You Should Never Do on Social Media

When you put genuine effort into helping customers with their problems, you both appease customers and gain input for your brand’s improvement.

5. Skipping the Editing Process

Before posting anything on social media, edit it viciously.

Typos and grammar mistakes will be noticed, and they won’t do your brand any good.

6. Failing to Address Mistakes

No matter how strict you are with your rules and guidelines, mistakes will pop up now and then (because we’re all human, right?).

When they do, address them tactfully. You can even be a little humorous.

Take this example from The Red Cross addressing their social media specialist Gloria Huang’s mistake as inspiration.

7. Posting Only When Inspiration Strikes

On your personal social media account, you can post any time the mood strikes you. Or not at all.

Not so with your business account. In fact, the more you post, the more exposure you’ll gain.

Here’s a quick guideline from Volusion on how often to post on different social media platforms.

  • Facebook and Instagram: Once or twice daily.
  • Twitter: 5-10 tweets daily.
  • Pinterest: 5-30 pins daily.
  • Linkedin: 20 posts a month.

8. Forgetting Your Mission to Enrich Your Followers’ Lives

Starting a business isn’t all about boosting your earning potential. It’s about developing a product or service that’ll enrich people’s lives.

So when you take to social media, make it your goal to reflect that mission.

Share content that’s useful, relevant, and helpful to people. Enrich their lives.

Look how Great Escape Publishing does it on their Facebook page.


9. Sounding Too Salesy

While it’s a good practice to promote new products on social media, don’t overdo it.

No one will keep following a brand that constantly pushes them to buy something.

10. Ignoring Comments on Your Posts

Engagement is of top priority on social media. So when your followers comment on your posts, comment back.

Here are some tips on responding to comments:


[Source: This article was published in By Julia McCoy - Uploaded by the Association Member: Logan Hochstetler]

Published in Social
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