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11 Practices Students Need to Improve Their Online Research Skills

catherinemurphy profile picture
Kate MurphyGuest Blogger
August 22, 2016 · 1.7k Views

Summer is almost over which means college students will be returning to their respective campuses to begin another school year. If you are a college student, you are probably dreading the hours you will spend studying and researching for exams and papers. Getting the work done is going to be stressful. But there are strategies you can implement to make life easier starting with online research. By using these hacks and sources to hone your online research skills, you’ll be prepared for whatever the fall semester throws your way.

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  1. Get familiar with your school’s online resources

    Source: Knox.edu

    Believe it or not, colleges and universities want their students to do well. They have made available helpful resources for essay writing and research that you can use for your studies. Begin by checking out what is accessible through your school. Additionally, you should be able to access the MLA International Bibliography through your school’s library.
  2. Search unique keywords

    Source: Wordstream

    When researching a topic, you want to use unique keywords. Broader key words will yield broader results, and this will not be very helpful when you are writing a research paper on a specific topic such as propaganda posters in Russia during the early 1900s.
  3. Use quotations

    Source: Etsy

    Put quotes around the phrases you are researching. This tells Google that you are looking for a specific phrase. Google will then pull up articles and online sources that contain the phrase.
  4. Google Scholar is your friend

    One of the downsides of online research is scouring through the plethora of unreliable information to find the legit resources. Using Google Scholar, you’ll find scholarly publications that are appropriate for research papers. Unfortunately, accessing articles on Google Scholar is not free. But, you can collect article titles and check to see if they are available through your school library.
  5. Google Books
    Use Google Books to narrow down the book publications that you may need for your research paper or project. While only sample pages from a book are accessible online, you can still glean helpful information. The copyright pages are included, which means you’ll be able to properly site the source.
  6. Advanced Search Function
    Google’s Advanced Search Function is often overlooked. But it is very useful when it comes to sharpening your research results. To locate the feature on Google’s homepage, look toward the bottom right hand corner and click “Settings” and then “Advanced Search.” You now have the option to narrow down filters such as language, region, and file type and search specific phrases.
  7. Time limit your search

    Source: Hat Rabbits

    We’ve all taken a wrong turn or more when it comes to online research. The Internet is full of attention grabbing stuff that is hard to ignore. And before you know it, you’ve click 10 links and are now reading about Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond collection when you should be researching the politics of diamond mining. Avoid getting off track by setting a time limit for how long you can search a keyword, review sites, and take notes. It takes a little discipline, but this strategy will make your online research faster and more efficient.
  8. Take annotated notes

    Source: authenticassessment.wordpress.com

    Taking annotated notes while you research is a great habit to form. This strategy is especially useful for papers and projects that require you to consult many sources. You can easily refer to your notes with descriptions of books and articles to quickly locate the one you need.
  9. Learn your way around online libraries and encyclopedias
    Project Gutenberg is a vast online library where you can access over 50,000 ebooks completely free and Encyclopedia Britannica provides access to scholarly articles. They are also useful for bibliographies and prompts for future research.
  10. Don’t rely on Wikipedia
    Wikipedia is a great place to find information on just about anything you can think of. But it is not a great resource for scholarly research because of inaccuracies, incomplete citations, and biased views. You’re in luck though – there are other accessible online sources you can use in place of Wikipedia. Here’s an extensive list provided by http://www.collegedegree.com.
  11. Use online resources to stay motivated in your studies

    Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

    We have all hit the academic wall after midterms. Regaining your study momentum seems impossible especially after Thanksgiving break. But there are online sources such as Getting Smart, The Rapid E-Learning Blog, and Open Culture designed to help you hit the books and stay motivated when you need it most. 


catherinemurphy profile picture
Kate Murphy is a native of Pennsylvania. After receiving a degree in art history, she moved to New York City to test the waters. She enjoys writing about art, culture, fashion, design, and travel. In addition to writing, Kate works with artists, leads, street art tours, and moonlights as an illustrator.

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