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Research Online: A Practical Guide 
Choose a Section:
Intro | Web Basics | Searching | Links | Citing Sources | Conclusion

Searching Smarter
Web Research Tips
Research Tools

Web Research Tips

There are some general tips, or "good habits," you should be aware of regarding online research. Adopt these habits and you will not only be a more efficient student, you'll have more fun on the Web as well.

1.  Diversify. It's important to know that search engines search their own databases only--not the entire World Wide Web. Therefore all search engines will not deliver the same results. It is crucial to try the same search on a variety of search engines. Make a point to try out a new search engines each time you do a search.

2.  Go Beyond Simple Keyword Searches. You can greatly improve the results of your search by learning to construct Boolean and other advanced searches. The next section provides links to in-depth coverage of these concepts.

3.  Don't Rely Solely on Search Engines. Familiarize yourself with the many "supersites" that list collections of links. There are many such sites hosted by universities, libraries, and government agencies that will lead you to reliable information of an academic nature. Be sure to bookmark such sites.

4.  Cast a Wide Net. A thorough search will increase the quality of the results you find online. If you're investigating a particular topic, don't rely on the first relevant site you find for all your research. Find many sites, evaluate them, pick out a handful of the best, and bookmark those for future reference.

5.  Explore Your Browser's Capabilities. Spend some time becoming familiar with your browser. Did you know you can insert an entire Web page into a report? Or send a Web page electronically to a friend or teacher? Explore these functions by clicking on the pull-down menus in your browser. The Help menu will give an overview of your browser's features. You'll be surprised at all the navigating possibilities.

6.  Stay Focused. It's easy to be distracted on the Web. Ads, sweepstakes, offers, links--all are designed to get your attention and entice you to go elsewhere. Giving in to these distractions is a sure way to squander time and lose momentum. One way to stay focused on your topic is to equip yourself with a blank sheet of "distraction" paper. If something piques your interest that has nothing to do with your topic, jot it down so you can return later during time set aside for "fun" Web surfing. You can even get the URL without going to the site-simply hold your cursor over the link or graphic, without clicking, and the URL will appear at the bottom of your screen. By jotting down distractions and curiosities, you let go of them and focus again on the task at hand.

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