TL;DR Version: In this blog post I share the strategies I use to conduct research on personal, health, and academic topics using online tools. I promote the use of online virtual library connections, Internet searches, and Google Scholar to conduct research.
During classes in secondary classrooms or higher education courses many times you will need to be able to effectively research, synthesize this research, and use this to support your own findings. Many times students will perform initial web searches to learn more about a topic, but then stop at that point. Students also have access to libraries to obtain the important research and databases that are needed for their inquiry.
If you wish to conduct your own research…first of all, congrats. You should be conducting your own research and expanding your grasp of the materials. Especially in the fields of new and digital literacies, there is much more that we need to know about these given fields. I also believe that all educators should be healthy reflective practitioners, and that means continuing your research and investigation on throughout your career. The good news is that you have plenty of options for finding this research beyond the typical web search, and visiting your library. In this blog post I would like to share the research techniques I used while completing my doctoral work while at UConn. It worked for me…and I think it’ll work for you.
Use your school library virtually
Of course your school or university librarian would love to see you in person. However most of the library media specialists that I know understand the information literacies that individuals now use to learn, connect, and collaborate online. This means that most of the resources you need may be available virtually. You can also request materials via interlibrary loan, and pick it up next time you’re nearby. I pasted in below the specifics on requesting and using materials remotely for my institution. I believe these instructions might be pretty close to your specific library. Please make sure you check with your local library media specialist…and be sure to say thanks for what they’re about to do for you… 😉
Our University library is here to assist. Almost all of the library databases (containing journal articles, etc.) can be searched remotely with your username and password (first part of your email address before @ and the password you use to sign into your account). Most databases allow you to specify if you would like to search for items that are available full text within that resource, the items may be either HTML/PDF or both. Or if you don’t use that limit on your search, in your results list there is usually a link that you can follow to try and access the full text. This link will check to see if we have the full text electronically in another resource and link you to the journal page it is in, or let you know if we only have the item in a physical copy (paper or microform). If we don’t have what you are looking for full text electronically or in physical form, you can place an Interlibrary Loan request through our website and we will try to get the item for you from another library.
Your local library media specialist should use some of the same process…but be sure to check. Our secondary schools and local libraries may not have some of this access, but they usually can connect with local university libraries. I’ve never met a library media specialist that said “no, I don’t want you to learn something.” 🙂
Use the Internet to learn more about a topic
You can also conduct a large amount of research online. I suggest that if you chose to research online, you first conduct a couple basic searches using various keywords in Google, or whatever search engine you trust most. I am also a proponent of Wikipedia as a starting point for your research. It is a “self-cleaning oven” and can provide an overview of a topic, ways in which it interconnects, and most of all a robust list of citations.
Use Google Scholar to help you find scholarly materials
After you know some of the keywords, authors, and possible titles you would like to view, I suggest you use Google Scholar to identify research and readings you would like to learn more about.
Please use some of the great digital texts and tools available online to help you search, save, and synthesize information while researching online. I use Evernote, or Pocket to save webpages. You might also be interested in using Mendeley or Zotero to conduct, save, and synthesize your research.
If needed, I am available to help guide you in this process. Subscribe to my newsletter to get tips, tricks, and insight as you pursue your own path as a web literate individual.
Image CC by wili