Research on the Web
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
The World Wide Web is like one big library. But there is too much out there and it is expanding exponentially!
The common search engines are, of course, a starting point. I like Excite and Lycos. More recently, Google has become the defacto standard, and has greatly enhanceed its capabilitiues. You will find the latter as the local search engine used on numerous web sites now. MSN.Com has also improved its speed and accuracy.
But these online search engines are only the starting point. I like to use a "desktop" search engine, Copernic, which searches multiple internet searh engines and presents a list in very manageable form, plus it will store your searches for later use and update! The free version has been all I need.
Once you find a site in the area of your interest, search that site and check their links to other sites. This focuses your energies in the same topic area. Bookmark those with good links.
For instance, to research peoples or cultures, use the Virtual Research Centre, a virtual library of sites all over the world. This "front-end" library catalogue lists major cultural sources on the World Wide Web.
Use news services, such as New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, MSNBC. The latter two have good links to other sites on the same topic. I keep a separate favorites folder of News services on my link bar or personal toolbar on my browsers. See the VRC news desk.
Use Library of Congress lookups. Online encyclopedias are great: Britannica, Encarta and others. Find books on Amazon.Com or Walmart.Com. Many reviews on Amazon provide useful information on a subject. For out-of-print books or uncommon titles check Half-Price Books.
Organizing what you find
Make a topic list: As you develop a project, organize what you find for that particular project. Keep a separate category for each new topic that develops out of that, for future reference, developing your own resource list of useful web sites.
Notepad lists: I am always on the lookout for resources. As I come across a possible resource site, I paste the URL (web site address) into a notepad file on my desktop. I keep several of these on various topics, and refer to them as needed. As I use them, if they prove helpful, I add them to my favorites list.
Favorites: Organize the folders of your Favorites/Bookmarks by topic or project. You can organize these just like the folders on your hard drive.
For example, I do a lot of cultural and linguistic research. So I have a separate folder in my Windows Favorites for research. Under Research I have folders for primary categories I need: various cultural areas, like Africa, Horn of Africa, North Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Europe, and topics I refer to often. When I start a project, as resources gather for a new topic, I organize a new folder for that category, so I don't waste time looking the next time I need that topic or region.
I also keep a separate folder for Searches, which automatically gets me back to a good search list on a certain topic the next time I need it.
You might find it helpful also to save your Bookmarks or Favorites as an HTML file, using the export function. This becomes your own menu file on the desktop, and lets you easily share your resource list with others.
Save pages: If you save whole pages, save them with recognizable names and organize them in folders under topics or projects.
You don't want to put every URL you find in your favorites, only those that you find useful. When I find a good source, here are some ways I organize or use pages. First, I print out critical pages I will want to review and make notes on. This is often easier than scrolling through, and I can easily cross-reference two or three printed documents for specific information to evaluate and summarize for an article. I can also review, mark and edit much faster and more easily on paper.
Project Manager: A good web research project manager helps organize your URLs and gathered materials into a notebook onscreen. Keeboo is a document organizer that lets you copy pages or whole web sites for later review, or organize just your URLs. You can also keep your own notes, online or off. This enables you to easily share and reorganize information and write your proposal as your project develops. Keeboo used to have a free version, but seem not to provide that anymore
First written March 2000
Last edited 6 October 2012
Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
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Copyright © Orville Boyd Jenkins 2000, 2004
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.
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