Using the Internet to Research and Write Your Papers
Posted on May 20 2013
As an online high school student, you already know the power of the Internet to deliver your lessons and help you earn your high school diploma. You can study, take tests and talk to online teachers and classmates virtually anywhere. You can also harness the Internet to get information on your research projects, papers and assignments.
And yes, it’s not as easy as going to Wikipedia and typing your chosen topic on the search area, copying the content and adding your name on the “research project”. The great thing is the Internet can open you up to a wide range of resources aside from Wikipedia. These may be available for purchase, or if you search deeply enough, you will find free resources that are accurate and reliable. This can come in the form of statistics, research studies, journal articles and more. However, with the vast amount of information available, you will need to know where and how to search.
Here are some tips to help you complete the assignments you have for your virtual high school classes:
- Determine your topic and keywords. Remember, the type of fish you catch largely depend on the kind of bait you have. The search keywords serve as your “bait” in trying to get relevant results. It will be helpful to carefully filter the search words and field of study you will be using. Narrowing down the topic and field of study will get rid of the “fluff” that may accompany your search results. Experiment to see which keywords work for the topic you are researching on. In addition, the use of multiple keywords can help you drill down more closely to your topic of interest.
- Determine the kind of search you want. If you want other people’s takes on your certain topic, this kind of research is called “soft research”. You may need this in a paper (i.e. reaction papers, assignments regarding your personal opinion) where you are still unsure of the position you will be taking regarding the topic. Reading about other people’s viewpoints can help you form your own opinions. Meanwhile, if your assignment require you to provide facts, statistics and proof (i.e. papers for science or history, you need to conduct “hard research”. There are also times when you need to do a combination of both. It is important for you to determine at the onset the kind of research you need.
Choose your resources. Soft and hard research will require different resources. For instance, hard research (which deals with evidence, proof and facts), you need to ensure the authenticity and credibility of your resources. Soft research resources may be those who possess practical experience with regards to the topic.
Here are some resources to consider:
Hard research resources:
- Government entities and publications. The various government entities usually make key facts and statistics available in their website.
- News websites. Facts regarding current events can be culled from the websites of news agencies. Be careful of parody websites that look like legitimate websites, though. One case in point would be onion.com.
- Socio-civic and non-government websites. Websites that are aimed towards a certain cause and do not run on advertising or sponsorship.
- Academic journals and websites.
Soft research resources:
- Websites that hosts forums and discussions. Aside from the discussions you have with your online classmates, you can look into forums that focus on your topic of interest.
- Blogs. Blogs provide personal opinions and reviews.
- Commercial sites or consumer-based websites. This can be websites that run on advertising or sponsorship, as well as websites that focus on consumer reviews of various products.
- Choose and use various search engines. Google is not your only best friend. There are a number of go-to websites that are targeted towards different needs or that allow you access to pages that are not spidered by Google. Some websites you can visit include: www.DuckDuckGo.com, the Internet Public Library (www.ipl.org), www.Mahalo.com, www.infomine.ucr.edu, The WWW Virtual Library (www.vlib.org), www.intute.ac.uk, US Government Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) or www.infoplease.com. After you use these search engines, you can bookmark interesting results so that you keep track of them.
Validate the content. Especially for hard research, it is very important for you to validate your content to ensure that it is legitimate and the information you are quoting are based on facts and real research. How do you validate the content? Here are some tips:
Check the three letters after the dot. This indicates the kind of entity that produced the website. Here are some of the common sources:
- .com – commercial for-profit entity
- .org – non-profit organization
- .edu – an academic institution
- .gov – a government agency
- “Unprofessional” or amateurish websites are suspect. If the website is riddles with grammatical and spelling errors, has poor or tacky design or advertisement, chances are, the website is not a reliable resource. Another sign would be that the website does not have its own domain name (and instead “borrows” space from public domains i.e. Facebook)
- Choose publications from recognized authorities. Ask, what are the author’s credentials? Is he/she a considered authority on the subject? For instance, a doctor who writes about the effects of a certain illness has more credibility than someone who does not have the medical degree.
- Use your instincts to separate the “propaganda” from the facts. If the website is too positive or promotes a certain idea or product too aggressively, that can be a red flag with regards to the source’s objectivity as a reputable source.
- Check the website’s reputation in the web. You can look at the website’s backlinks to see what other websites recommend the webpage. This is an indication of how other website owners see the website in question.
- Check the three letters after the dot. This indicates the kind of entity that produced the website. Here are some of the common sources:
- Cite the content. If you quote anything culled from other web resources, you need to also name your source. It is considered plagiarism if you simply copy and paste other people’s writings and content without acknowledging the source.
With these simple tips, you can get a head start on the assignments and projects you may have for your online high school courses.