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4 tips you need to do smart and effective internet research

If you think it's easy enough to find information on the internet - you're right, it is! But if you think all the information is accurate and reliable, think again. BrainGain magazine brings you 4 tips which can help you make your internet research smart and effective.
BY Skendha Singh |   07-06-2017

How easy is it to search on the internet! Google processes approximately 40,000 search queries every second, and 3.5 million queries every day. Each query takes 0.2 seconds to search 1000 computers and retrieve an answer. How is that for impressive!

That said, we must look hard at all the information our search results yield. For example, if you search for Hillary Clinton, and come across this news report, check again.

The internet is an exhaustive but not an entirely reliable source of information. Whether you’re searching for academic answers or satisfying idle curiosity, you will be better off knowing how to find, and use, quality information.

  1. Start with basics but don’t stop there

    Who was Sir John Hurt? You may not know yet, but with a few clicks, Google and Wikipedia can come to your rescue. This is true for almost any question that might be put to you today (including ‘What is the meaning of life?’ for which too Wikipedia has an answer).

    However, it can only take you so far.

    While Google and other search engines yield a huge range of results, it is your responsibility to carefully sift through them, and only use information which is authentic. For instance, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain are not responsible for 88% of witticisms made since the dawn of civilization.

    Again, it will do you good to remember that Wikipedia is collaboratively edited. That means that anyone can update Abraham Lincoln’s profile to say ‘Vampire-slayer’ under the career section. That sounds interesting but suspicious, so check.

    Use sites like these for an overview, or a background, not as the ultimate guide to whatever it is you’re looking for.

     
  2. Identify reliable resources

    How?

    One easy way is to check the references at the bottom of the page you’re reading. In a Wikipedia entry, that could lead you to the source – a report, an interview, a blog perhaps. Follow that lead.

    When you come to the source, you must understand its nature. A blog, for instance, can be well-written, accessible, and informed. However, it is an opinion, not a fact. If the blog uses numbers or quotes to build an argument, check. This is as true for personal blogs as those published by leading newspapers.

    Another tip is to check the domain name. Websites that are .gov or .edu are often authentic sources of information. These are excellent places to look for data. Instead of reading about Harvard University’s enrollment numbers on a secondary source, check the university website, or email representatives.

    Another way to verify data is to scan multiple sources. That way, not only can you verify the information you already have, but learn new ways of looking at it.

    Thirdly, always look for the latest information. Think of how it would read if you wrote that the population of India is more than 700 million, because you only have figures from the 1980 census.

     
  3. Define the scope of your search

    In the Pandora’s box of information that is the internet, it is easy to get distracted. If it isn’t your friends, followers, and newsfeeds, it could be the related stories that lead you far down the rabbit hole.

    Focus.

    Once you have a grip of the basics, and a background to the topic you are researching, define its parameters. For instance, if you now know who Sir John Hurt is, you can research his role in the Harry Potter films.

    Once you have defined the parameters of your search, you can process your information much more efficiently.

     
  4. Cite right

    Giving due credit is fundamental to academic research. Whether you’re poring over books, journals, blogs or tuning into vlogs and podcasts, you must give credit where it is due. Combing through haystacks of information means it is easy to lose track of where you found a number or a quote – but it is your responsibility. Otherwise, you stand the risk of being accused of plagiarism, and as we’ve discussed elsewhere, that is a serious charge.

    One way to guard against this is by making organized notes and bookmarking all the online resources which you find relevant. That way you can always return to it.

    The internet can prove to be a huge resource, academic and otherwise, if used intelligently. And now you have 4 tips on just how to do that.

    Any points you think we’ve missed? Email us or leave a comment below. Happy researching!
 
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