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6 Vital Online Research Skills That Students Need to Know

With the amount of data on the Internet, finding the exact information you need can feel impossible. But don’t let your educational research get you down. Make in-depth research easier by checking out these online research skills that students need to know.

Determine what you want to know

There’s nothing more frustrating than falling down the search results rabbit hole. To avoid this, do some preliminary thinking on exactly what you want to know. If you’re writing a paper about women’s roles in the Civil War, the search term “Civil War” will be too broad. Determine the exact niche you’re going for and tailor your search terms to it.

Conduct a preliminary search

Before you stress too much about finding the perfect keyword, try out some of the terms you just brainstormed. This way, you can get a feel for just how much and what type of information is out there. If you see billions of results from credible websites, that’s a sign your topic will have a wealth of information. If you get just a couple thousand results and none of them stick out, it may be time to switch up your tactics.

No relevant results? Change it up

If you’re coming up short on relevant results, there’s no need to fear. That just means it’s time to switch things up. Brainstorm some synonyms for your keyword, specify your results by using quotation marks, or add descriptors that broaden your original thought. With the right combinations, you’ll find useful results in no time.

Evaluate link quality before you click

Even if links pop up in the search results, they’re all not necessarily high quality. Check out the link’s domain and description to get a feel for the page’s information. Is it a lighthearted, surface-level website, or it is a well-researched, in-depth article? By scanning those indicators, you can weed out a lot of potentially irrelevant or unhelpful links.

Determine the accuracy of those pages

Once you click on the link, the real work begins. The Internet hosts a plethora of information, but not all of it is entirely accurate. Cross-reference pages with textbooks, known credible sources, and your personal knowledge to get a feel for the accuracy of the website. If an author is credited, research their qualifications. If they have a background in the subject and have published multiple pieces, their information is likely reliable.

Let one source lead to another

An underutilized but necessary method is to check the references listed on a page. Annotations or citations within the document are likely the primary sources of that website’s information. This opens up a whole new world of information. If you find a fact of interest to you, check out where the author got that information from. Investigating references is an online research skill that students need to know to make the entire searching process more lucrative.