Research, doing your own and teaching students what you know as well as how to conduct research themselves, forms the heart of any University. As the number of reliable (and unreliable) online sources of information grows, the necessity to know and understand your own online research workflow also grows.
Once you understand your own process of research and file management, you can clearly articulate best practices in your field to your students as well. Here is a list of potential pieces of this process that you might want to articulate:
How and where do you gather research? Google? Specialized databases? Your library’s website? Do you know enough about your own search strategies to teach them to your students? Do you know what a “search operator” is?
- Do you know about the Rasmuson Library’s “ebrary,” or Academic Search Premier, JSTOR (short for Journal Storage; access through Elmer Library) or Google Scholar?
- Download a Cheat Sheet for Google Search Operators.
- Check out this more visual infographic on google search ‘operators’.
- View Chris Lott’s Googlefu presentation at UAF Tech Fest 2012. (Scroll to 30 minutes in the presentation). Silverlight is required for your browser.
- Some slideshows to help you and your students search for information. (The links provided on this page are slideshows that you can use in your class or embed on your website so long as you provide credit.)
- Or… Perhaps try other search engines: DuckDuckGo.com, DogPile.com
How do you determine whether a source is reliable or not?
Here is the first line of defense suggested by the folks at Google (and I happen to agree with them):
- Is the contact info for website easy to find?
- Look at the ads on the site. What do the ads tell you about the content or the publisher?
- Use the link operator: [ link:www.ufos-aliens.co.uk ] to see what other web sites link to this site. Are they credible sources?
- Is there an author or easy-to-identify corporate author? If not, you may be reading something from a content farm. Search for the author, organization, in quotes, see what others have to say.
- Check the site out on Alexa.com
If you want a crash course in site reliability (or if you want your students to take a crash course) here is another good Google slideshow: Credibility: Truth & Trust on the Internet compiled by Daniel Russell, Natasha Bergson-Michelson, & Trent Maverick
STORE & ORGANIZE
How do you store the information you find? Do you simply bookmark webpages or do you download full articles? If you download full articles, where do you store them and how do you organize them? How should your students share the research they are gathering with you? Are there ways they can share this information online? (The answer is “yes”) You may already be using some of the following services to store and organize your research:
Diigo: Bookmark, organize, index, share, annotate.
Evernote: Modern Day Trapperkeeper
Mendeley: Save It, Organize It, and Cite It
Zotero: Save It and Cite It
Dropbox: No More Jumpdrives and Collect Portfolios
Google Drive (Used to be called Google Docs)
ANNOTATE, SHARE, & CITE
Once you have collected research from online sources, how can you annotate those sources? There are more and more ways to annotate and even socially or collectively annotate documents. Citation is a critical piece of good research practices. Many students are tempted to use things like citation machine to create bibliographies or in-text citations. However, if students are introduced to things like Zotero or Mendeley early-on, they can exercise much healthier citation practices.