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How to effectively use the internet for research?

Posted by on in Internet Research
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‘Google it!’ is the first thing most would say when they want to find information on a topic. Whether the topic is broad or narrow, today a key place that anyone would first try out is the internet. Internet does not present the usual dilemmas of using a conventional library.  Internet is both easily accessible and searchable within seconds simply by typing few keywords. But the problem that I often grappled with is the enormous amount of information that is poured in the moment I type my first keywords. To me, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Hence, my question has always been, ‘how will I find the EXACT information I need, by searching the internet?’ 

Here’s how I would approach it!


Define your topic: Your research topic is the first thing that you should figure out before starting on any kind of research! If you are vague about your topic and are not sure of exactly the kind of information you require, then searching for information becomes extremely challenging. Not only that, you will soon get tired and will be lost in the midst of the vast amount of information that is present to you the moment you run your search.


So first of all define your topic. What do you want to say or prove by your topic? Think about it. Reflect upon it. Jot down notes if necessary. The point is that you clearly understand what information you require to support your topic. If it’s too broad a topic, always narrow it down to give it more clarity. For instance, if the topic is ‘refugees in conflict areas’, you are dealing with too general a topic, such that finding information to cover the topic is somewhat challenging. But if you narrow it down to something like, ‘Syrian refugees in Turkey’ then your topic is more definite and focused, and thus easier for you to search for relevant information.


Define your audience: Who is your target audience? Who are you doing this research for? Who will see the final outcome of your research? Because, whatever you do, it is your target audience who will evaluate what you have done at the end of the day. So your job is to simply please them! Try to understand what they hold as authoritative information. For example, if you are dealing with an academic community, look for information that they would consider as credible such as scholarly journals, academic papers, books, credible magazines etc.


Define your purpose: Why are you doing this research? is it just for an academic purpose such as for your dissertation or thesis, for an office presentation or simply for your own edification. The purpose will determine the kind of information you require. For example, if it’s just for your own edification, anything from Wikipedia to current news would be a good source. But if it’s for an academic purpose such as for your dissertation or your thesis, you need to look for information in more academic sources; academic databases, scholarly journals, and white papers etc.


Have these steps figured out and you know you are not lost in your journey. Now you have a clear idea of where you should be heading. So it’s just a matter of starting your journey or in other words, it’s time to go about hunting down the necessary information.

However, ‘searching’ information also requires a certain amount of preparation.

Here is how I would prepare to search…  


  1. Start simple and do a quick search on the topic:  Think about what you are looking for. Brainstorm and prepare a list of potential search terms. As the first step simply run a general search using a search engine. In my case, I would Google it! This will enable you to see what’s available on the topic and enhance your general understanding of the topic. Look for sites such as Wikipedia and any other website that discusses the topic at hand.
  2. Identify keywords for more effective searching: Once you have a general understanding of the topic, look for keywords to carry out more effective search. You can use any site relevant to your topic to identify keywords. I personally feel that Wikipedia is a really good source in picking some interesting keywords for your topic. 
  1. Start searching using the keywords you identified: Do a search using the keywords and try to see what comes up. If you are not happy with the results you get, try a different combination of keywords and see what you get. Try searching this way until you find satisfactory information. Don’t forget to list down any website, academic database, e-book that pops out during your search that discusses the topic of your concern. When you do this, by the end of your search, you may have listed down quite a lot of relevant sources.
  1. Check the credibility of your sources: Whatever the source you have gathered, check if it falls within the expected criteria of your audience. Will they hold it as a reputable source within the field of study?

Follow these steps and you’ll be able to find plenty of relevant material on your topic. But remember, there is no hard and fast rule to search for information on the internet. If you do a search and find what you want, then your search is successful. If not try alternate search techniques until you find what you want.

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions. Thanks





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