Internet Research: Skills Your Students Should Have

Internet research is the practice of using Internet information, especially free information on the World Wide Web, in research. Internet research has had a profound impact on the way ideas are formed and knowledge is created. Common applications of Internet research include personal research on a particular subject, students doing research for academic projects and papers, and journalists and other writers researching stories.

Research is a broad term. Here, it is used to mean “looking something up on the Web“. It includes any activity where a topic is identified, and an effort is made to actively gather information for the purpose of furthering understanding. It may include some post-collection analysis like a concern for quality or synthesis. It is:

(1) focused and purposeful (so not recreational browsing),
(2) uses internet information or internet-based resources (like internet discussion forums),
(3) tends towards the immediate (drawing answers from information you can access without delay),
(4) and tends to access information without a purchase price.

Search tools

The most popular search tools for finding information on the internet include Web search engines, meta search engines, Web directories, and specialty search services. A Web search engine uses software known as a Web crawler to follow the hyperlinks connecting the pages on the World Wide Web. A Meta search engine enables users to enter a search query once and it runs against multiple search engines simultaneously, creating a list of aggregated search results. A Web directory organizes subjects in a hierarchical fashion that lets users investigate the breadth of a specific topic and drill down to find relevant links and content. Specialty search tools enable users to find information that conventional search engines and meta search engines cannot access because the content is stored in databases.

Website Authorship

When using the Internet for research, countless websites appear for whatever search query is entered. Each of these sites has one or more authors or associated organisations. Who authored or sponsored a website is very important to the accuracy and reliability of the information presented on the website.

Top Online Research Skills

At the end, we should mention some top internet research skills every student would have:

1. Check Your Sources

The Skill: Evaluating information found in your sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.

The Challenge: While most students know not to believe everything they read online, the majority also don’t take the time to fully evaluate their sources.

The Solution: The following benchmarks for evaluating a website should be discussed: currency (Is the information up to date?), security (Does the site ask for too much personal information or prompt virus warnings?), scope (Is the information in-depth?), and authority (Does the information come from a trusted expert?).

2. Ask Good Questions

The Skills: Developing and refining search queries to get better research results.

The Challenge: Students will enter a search term, say, “Abraham Lincoln,” and comb through pages of results that aren’t related to their research, rather than narrowing their original query “Lincoln assassination”.

The Solution: Small groups should be given three search terms each, ranging from the general to the specific (e.g., “national parks,” “Yellowstone,” and “Yellowstone founding date”). They should be asked to record how many results are returned for each term.

3. Go Beyond the Surface

The Skill: Displaying persistence by continuing to pursue information to gain a broad perspective.

The Challenge: Studies have shown that when using a search engine, students often stop at the first search result, which they deem the most trustworthy.

The Solution: Students should be invited to create fact trees about whatever they are researching.