Education Eye: Effective online research

Catherine Stoker
Catherine Stoker

When I was at school our first port of call for homework and school project research were the heavy, gold embossed volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica which decorated the shelves in my father’s study.

Not so now, since children have such wide access to a wealth of information at their finger-tips via the internet.

Here are a few tips on using it effectively for research:

> Establish rules for browsing which should be discussed and keep an eye on what they are up to. Ideally put the computer in a central location or if they’re using a laptop in their room, insist the door stays open and pop in regularly.

> Encourage them to vet the author by looking into experience and level of expertise via their website. Are they a recognized, reputable or credible source of information?

> Ask yourself, is the opinion one-sided? Researching both points of view and both sides of the argument is critical to forming a balanced view, once in possession of all the facts and several different opinions.

> The internet has the huge advantage of making it possible to research information, opinions and ideas globally. However it’s important to be aware of where the site you’re looking at originates to truly understand the background to the information source.

> Be sure to select search phrases carefully. The closer they are to your specific topic of interest or question, the more likely you are to find what you’re looking for.

> Look beyond page one of Google search results and be wary of sponsored links to boost posts for commercial reasons.

> Remember that Google is not the only search engine.

> Beware of plagiarism and respect copyright. Information found on websites should not be reproduced word for word using copy and paste.

> Always give credit to research resources as relevant.