Everyone seems to have their own style when it comes to accessing, managing, integrating, evaluating, and creating content digitally. I know I have my own way of researching, and it often changes. The way I did research when I was high school, when the internet was first emerging as a research tool, compared to how I do research now is very different. When the internet was first developing, there was a lot of fear of the validity of online resources, and I think there is a lot of this doubt that still arises when it comes to formal research. Pretty much every teacher I’ve had in recent years (of course with the exception of Mr. Batchelder) has warned against the evils of Wikipedia and other online sources and how you should steer away from them.

I think the way we do research digitally follows the same basic structure of how people used to do research when it was exclusively offline. This guide called The Seven Steps of the Research Process by Cornell University offers a pretty good structure for how to do digital research. The first step suggests that narrowing the focus of your research will help you find what you’re looking for.  I think this is a good fundamental step in order to get you going down the right path. The next three steps serve to help the user in finding print sources, like encyclopedias, journal articles, books, etc. I think if I were organizing this guide, I would have placed the 5th step, “Find Internet Resources,” as being the 2nd step.

Like we’ve talked about in class, we are coming to an age where books are becoming years behind before they even hit the shelves and Wikipedia arguably could have more accurate information than Encyclopedia Britannica. While you have to be very discerning when you evaluate a resource on the internet, this realistically should be the first place you go to find information on most topics. Doing research on the internet is often faster, easier, and reaches a wider scope of sources.  Also, with the internet, there is the opportunity to have a collective intelligence, with many people weighing in and contributing to information.  Not to say there is not any value to offline sources, but I think it may make more sense to start your research online.

The guide by Cornell also provides recommendations on how to evaluate the information you do find, which I realized I probably don’t do enough.  These suggestions include evaluating the credentials of the author, who the intended audience is, how the information compares to other writing on the same topic, and reviews of the information. I think these are all good ways to evaluate information you come across, and I’m definitely going to start incorporating when I do research.

I also like this guide by UC Berkeley called Recommended Search Strategy: Analyze Your Topic & Search With Peripheral Vision. I like how this guide compares the different search engines out there, which is helpful when identifying where to go for research. The article pointed out what “meta-search engines” are and explains that you can compare results from different engines. One reason I’m not a huge fan of DogPile is because, as this article points out, it “Sites that have purchased ranking and inclusion are blended in.” In other words, what the user thinks is coming up naturally, is actually an advertisement.

Another interesting thing this guide points out is information on the “invisible web,” which I hadn’t heard much about. The article explains, “The ‘visible web’ is what you can find using general web search engines… The ‘invisible web’ is what you cannot retrieve (‘see’) using these types of tools.” The guide then goes on to explain how you can find information on the invisible web. 

I think the biggest thing we have to learn about the internet is that, yes, there is a lot of information out there… a LOT. But it’s a matter of finding the best way to sift through it all and find quality information and how to best organize and share that information. 

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