Optimizing Research on the Internet

The information highway contains immense amounts of information flying to and fro. This wealth of information available on the web can boggle the mind and create confusion, yet performing successful, productive research using the internet puts a world of information at our fingertips.

Navigating the information highway

Before embarking on our information highway adventure, the goals to drive our research should be established. Akin to being aware of our destination when taking a road trip, our goal is key to understanding where the process of internet research is headed.

Where do we start?

To begin with, forethought, mind mapping and planning are helpful. Three processes help tame the wild beast of information overload, making users its master. With these techniques  we can gain of wealth of knowledge to help us form sound opinions and share useful information.

  1. Define clear research goals coupled with a vision of the finished product.
  2. Formulate productive research questions and define information needs. This will keep the process focused.
  3. Scrutinize and analyze the information encountered, ensuring that it is reliable and meets the needs decided upon.
Research questions help plot  the course

The curiosity that sparked the interest in the topic should now be put to work by asking quality research questions to narrow the focus. At this point the goals of the paper have been determined, the thesis has been formulated and the information that is being sought has been defined. There is a clear understanding of where the information treasure hunt is leading.

hard verses soft research

Now that a determination has been made as to the destination in the form of established goals, thesis and research questions, the internet information search begins. Thoughtfully determining which search engines will best meet our needs, choosing quality key words to drive our hunt and finding out where we can find authorities on our topic are key elements of research. “’Hard’ and ‘soft’ research have different expectations of data and proof.  You should know the hard or soft nature of your topic to point your search strategy where it will yield the most reliable research results.” (Gil, 2015) Hard research being the objective type as compared to soft, which is more subjective.

how to use the advanced search templates

Information can be found using the advanced search capabilities in your search engines. You can perform a one-word, one-phrase, multiple term, use quotation marks for exact spelling. To include results with two different keywords such as salt AND pepper, the and will give you results for both. If you want to exclude a term associated with the one you’re searching, you can use NOT (salt NOT pepper). If you’re not sure which term you need information on you can search for either by using  OR (salt OR pepper).

Use the most general term associated with the topic rather than getting too specific for the most results and use the most important word in a term first. You can also try synonyms and related terms for results.  If you only know part of a term, you can use asteriks for help (Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an example, “to be * be).  To link words in a search use + , for example, “peanut+butter+jelly”.  You can use question marks if you’re unsure about the keyword or part of the phrase. To narrow you’re search to scholarly sources, you can use Google Scholar or a university’s online library.

use critical thinking skills

Beyond simply gathering information and data, using critical thinking skills to ask whether information is credible, fits with your research criteria and supports the thesis is important. Toss out what doesn’t fit, seems weak or unsubstantiated. Accept the information that is logical, reasonable, and supported by credible evidence.
When ample information has been gathered, satisfying the quest for knowledge, supporting the thesis and answering research questions, the journey has been completed.

presenting your research

Now the task of putting the acquired information that has been analyzed into clearly presented topics and subtopics that describe a well thought out body of research knowledge. When the proper steps are taken, the wild beast of internet information can be strategically tamed for research purposes. Although this takes critical thinking, hard work, patience and endurance, the rewards are rich. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. The knowledge gained by employing these techniques will unearth jewels of wisdom that can be shared in the form of a research essay. For an overview on writing a business research report to present your findings, read Business, Research, Reports, Executive Summaries, and Presentations.

References

Fornaciari, C., & Roca, M. (1999). Age of Clutter: Conducting Effective Research Using the Internet. Journal of Management Education, 732-742.

Gil, P. (2015, March 1). How Serious Online Research Works. Retrieved July 13, 2015, from http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/navigatingthenet/tp/How-to-Properly-Research-Online.htm

Nelson.com, Future of Business, Retrieved from http://www.futureofbusiness3e.nelson.com/student/book/reports_presentations.html

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