Internet research made easy

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You need to research Einstein’s life for a school paper. You need to look into the history of your company’s biggest competitor. The Internet is there for you. After all, the internet is filled with just about any stat, study and research paper that you’ll will need to find out about any subject imaginable. But exactly how do you know if the information you are finding online is actually true? Online research is convenient, having said that the Internet is also filled with half-truths and outright lies. Fortunately, the Lifehacker Web site has come up with a couple of effective tips for conducting accurate research online.

Is that a bias?

Lifehacker’s first tip? Watch out for your own bias. All of us are guilty of something termed confirmation bias. We want to find information with which we already agree. For instance, if you’re a lifelong liberal, you’ll be more prone to believe studies indicating that poverty is the true reason behind low school test scores. It’s important when researching online to understand your own biases and make sure that you’re not selectively sourcing studies that confirm it. You’ll want to give weight; too, to research that contradicts your beliefs.

Bad information

The biggest trap for online researchers, though, is bad data. The Internet is clogged with lots of improperly cited articles and half-baked research, says Lifehacker. Depending upon this content for your research can leave you with terribly inaccurate information. Make sure you rely on articles from highly regarded sources, whether that be medical journals, government studies or college reports.

Scholarly searches

To find the latest and most comprehensive studies on your subject, you’ll need to expand your search beyond the usual suspects of Google, Bing and Yahoo! Instead, use customized scholarly searches that will turn up more detailed information. Google Scholar and Scirus are powerful tools for academic research. So is PLOS, run by the Public Library of Science, and the United States Library of Congress.


Posted on: 03.15.13