The internet has turned our phones and computers into pocket libraries. You no longer have to go to your nearby community resource center to find information. As long as you know how to use the internet, you can get what you need.
So if you’re having difficulty finding the information you need, don’t give up. You can find what you’re looking for by using the following tips.
1. Be Google Smart
Before the advent of the internet and search engines, research had to be done manually and by hand. You had to go through stacks of index cards and be familiar with the library catalog system to find what you need. It was pretty difficult to search books by topic—you had to either know the title or the author to find the book.
Today, researching is a whole lot easier. All you need is to type down the keywords you’re looking for on Google, and you’ll get the most relevant results. However, what if you needed specific results?
This is where the Google search operator comes in. Whether you need to search for something published within a date range, on a website, or even reverse search an image, you can now do that by appending operators to your keywords.
That way, Google would know what to include and exclude in the results it’ll show you.
2. Start With Wikipedia
Most academic professors would say that Wikipedia isn’t 100% reliable, so you shouldn’t use it as your primary source. That’s because the site is open-source—meaning anyone could change its contents as long as they make an account.
While Wikipedia does have developed systems to ensure they have accurate information, it still isn’t accepted by most institutions. However, that doesn’t mean Wikipedia is useless for your research.
After all, since the authors on the page must provide sources for whatever they say, you can click on the links they cite to see their sources for yourself. If you find these sources reliable, then you can use that source as your own.
Furthermore, you can read Wikipedia articles as a jumping-off point for your research. For example, if you’re learning about the life of President Eisenhower, you can read the complete article and look at the key points in his life noted there. From there, you can use that as a basis to build your own research.
But remember, ensure that whatever you cite is from a reliable source and has other supporting documents to prove what you’re saying.
3. Get In Touch With the Author
If you’re doing academic research, and you find that the rest of the information you need is behind a paywall, don’t despair.
Instead of paying through the nose for access, you can instead find the email of the author of the paper and then email them some questions you might have.
Of course, don’t email them out of the blue demanding answers. Instead, introduce yourself courteously, tell them what kind of research you’re doing, and why you’re contacting them.
If they respond, that’s when you can inquire if you could ask them a couple of question. Should they respond positively, then that is when you can start asking.
If your conversation goes well enough, you might even be able to ask for a copy of their research paper. Furthermore, this is an excellent way to build your network and improve your credentials in your field of study.
4. Find the Source of Your Source
If you’re looking through articles online, and you see them quoting someone with a link, you should go to the linked page. That way, you can see exactly what was said and even read the context on how it was delivered.
This is especially important if you’re researching current events. That’s because if a news outlet quotes something, they’ll usually link it to a corresponding press release or social media post.
Just ensure that they’re linking to a legitimate site or account so that you’re 100% sure of the integrity of the information you’re quoting.
As companies and chief executives expand their presence on social media, you can get a lot of substantiated information from there. As long as the announcement comes from the company’s verified account, you can use that as a reliable source.
After all, big companies like Microsoft and Samsung use social media platforms like YouTube to make major announcements. Even Instagram uses Twitter to release important statements, like the company’s direction for 2022.
You can also follow the chief executives of these companies for updates.
For example, Microsoft’s VP and GM for Connected Home and Commercial Client Group announced that they’re shipping the 12th-generation Intel mobile processors to laptop manufacturers on Twitter. You would have missed this important news if you weren’t following him on social media.
6. Ask Yourself if It’s Reliable
This is the crucial question you have to ask yourself when you’re gathering information—is the source you’re quoting reliable? Do they have supporting documents to back up their claims? Are their results peer-reviewed and confirmed by other experts?
Since almost anyone can publish anything on the internet, you have to be extra careful about what you read on it. Back in the day, only news organizations and major institutions have access to widespread information dissemination.
That means whatever information they share, they have to vet it carefully so as not to destroy their reputation of trustworthiness.
But today, the widespread adoption of the internet means anyone can publish whatever they want. And if they know how to catch people’s attention, they can gather enough popularity to make their claims look legitimate, even if they are not.
That’s why you have to be careful of these, especially if you’re a researcher.
Information is in your pocket
Just a decade ago, you needed a computer to execute a proper internet research. But today, you can do that from your smartphone or smart device wherever you are. As long as you’re connected to the web, you can find information.
With Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and Siri, you can even ask them questions directly, and they’ll return with an answer. We no longer have a dearth of information—in fact, some might say we have too much of it.
Your responsibility as a researcher is to use the tools we have to find great, accurate results.
Twitter is more useful than people give it credit for. And in this article, we show you how to use Twitter for research.
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