Research Tips for College Students: Finding Relevant Information Quickly

online research tips

The internet is a massive collection of information. According to LiveScience, there were one billion websites as of September 2014, but that number changes minute by minute. When completing a higher education degree, finding relevant information quickly can be crucial to success. With a few internet research tips, you can achieve better results and develop a more thorough understanding of your topic.

Purdue Online Writing Lab offers research tips for college students on ways to use Boolean operators—words such as “and,” “or,” and “not”—to limit and expand your search. Google also offers the ability to refine your web searches through their advanced search settings or by using some lesser known symbols, for example, “Viking history.” Once you have your results, you would select “Settings” and then choose Advanced Settings to narrow your options, or you could simply search for "Viking history -football". For more Google search refinements, visit their refine web search cheat sheet

Other useful internet research tips for college students include using quotation marks to limit your search—for example, “online education” would restrict searches to that specific phrase—and to avoid clicking through to any sponsored content when beginning a search.

Google now offers Google Scholar, which allows you to search scholarly literature. It gives you access to everything from articles and books to abstracts, university archives, even court documents. You can limit searches to specific types of papers, full-text documents, and even specific years.  

Online Research Tips to Help Save Time

With so much information online, even knowing some of the best sites can still be a bit like going down the rabbit hole if you don’t keep a few internet research tips in mind when you start your project.

  1. Start with broader research terms and then get more specific. Let the ideas guide you, but also set a time limit for your research. Know your timeline and set expectations at the beginning of a project. A good rule is to leave at least half of your project time to write.
  2. Try to keep your research current. In today’s knowledge-based world, statistics that were current in 2010 can be out of date today. Unless there is a valid reason, such as your project might call for earlier data, attempt to find the most up-to-date reference possible.
  3. Look at the source carefully. Is there a hidden agenda? Is the content sponsored? Is there a slant to it that you need to be aware of before quoting it? It may still be a good source, but you need to consider the source before quoting it.
  4. Take notes and include the URL source so you can go back to it later. You will need to reference everything, and it is much easier to click on a link.
  5. Use your university’s library resources. For example, students at Northcentral University have access to an extensive online library, available 24/7, which includes searchable databases containing full-text articles and abstracts of leading publications along with access to interlibrary loan.

By understanding the basics of internet research and following a few general research tips for college students, your experience can be improved when trying to navigate the massive amount of data available on the internet today.

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