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Online Research: Confusion in a World Full of Studies and Experiments

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The relationship between writers and online research is one that requires maintaining a delicate balance between good time management skills, the will to keep moving forward, and grit. Of the last one, I won't say much right now. 

We go the World Wide Web for many apparent and not so apparent reasons. To make friends, to check out a job posting, to respond to a job invite, to read an interesting article, to post comments, to write an email, to browse for seminars and schedule a trip... to conduct online research

Those not so apparent reasons, other than planning our travels, include maintaining our social media presence and building our personal brand. 

Of course, not only writers do online research. And online research (blog post) is not the only thing that writers do. 

Nothing comes between a writer and her research

Words could not express the confusion I felt about staying connected prior to taking up online learning. 

Online research? Is that a new type of research or is that just another fancy word for "Googling"? Wait, Googling is not research? What about all these bugs/features I have found incidentally? Did I not just research them? 

[The Wold and the Crane]

When people say "do your homework" or "do your research", and people they do say that, they're not suggesting that you come up with a publish-ready academic essay, although it would be so awesome if you did. 

All the Googling, checking out online publications based on keywords related to the topics, and then reading them closely to determine whether they are a) interesting, or b) far from interesting, are merely efforts to study a subject or a situation. 

The aim of this is usually to prepare for something. For example, a job interview or a movie date. Or a photo shoot and a movie date, Zombie Apocalypse, Food Street upcoming event, the possibilities are endless!

[Un po' Ghezzi (la prima volta al cinema era 3D) by @flaviab is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

For people in the academic sector—students, librarians, teachers, mentors, provost—searching the World Wide Web for sources is just one part of the research project. 

Remember, the web is only 27 years old this year, while research comes from a very, very old Middle French word "recherche" that was already in use in 1577. It's ancient!

Instead of questioning what the World Wide Web is (hint: it is not the Internet*) and what it means to us, understanding online research is what we should be doing. I've come up with some of the best places to start:

Lifewire Student Guide

If you're looking for a guide to doing online research, this is a good place to start. Lifewire has a section called Internet & Network, in which you can read all about the Internet, including how to use it for research. In "How *Real* Online Research Works" and "What is 'Hard' Versus 'Soft' Internet Research?" we are introduced to the legitimate practices in researching online, with suggestions on how to set our priorities right. 

The articles are light and warm, fairly easy for everyone to understand. Even if you're not a student, the articles are going to provide you with enough details to warm you up. 

The Internet: Ideas, Activities, and Resources

A comprehensive but not overwhelming chapter to learn more about doing research on the Internet, broken down into activities. Originally written for students, this online publication is a product of the Florida Department of Education and the Office of Instructional Technology. It has 6 chapters dedicated to the topic, with chapters 4 and 5 dedicated to publishing and doing research online. 

Purdue Online Write Lab: Research and Citation

Every writer's reference. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University is a great place to improve your writing in general. It also is a place to help us with our research (blog post). 

In its Research and Citation section, we will find everything there is to know about to be able to conduct research and how to do citation. This includes how to use our research and how to work with the statistics. If that sounds too confusing, read on. I have the details on page 2. 

Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource

The Digital Literacy Resource from Cornell University is a very satisfying resource for doing research online. What's interesting about it is that Digital Literacy provides a guide to performing standard and advanced online search, as well as how to use Google Scholar and how to go "Beyond Google".

There are tips on evaluating online resources and things to look out for during an evaluation. 

[Aloneness or Loneliness? by @cogdog is licensed under CC0 1.0]

*For the teachers and the schools, the Internet gives more ways to buy textbooks. For the scientists, it's a place to publish research papers. For the digital artists, a way to distribute their works; hence, the term "Internet Art".

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