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12 Student Hacks To Become A Better Online Researcher

12 Student Hacks To Become A Better Online Researcher

Summer is underway and if you’re a student, school is probably the last thing you want to think about. But here’s the thing: the fall semester is only two months away, so you’re going to have to start thinking about school sooner than you think.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that sobering truth out of the way, let’s talk about what you can do to make the coming school year less stressful. You’re probably going to have to write a research paper or two (or ten). Luckily, there are strategies and services you can use to becomes a better online researcher and essay writing resources that will help you hone your academic writing. Equip yourself with these 12 effective online research hacks and you’ll be set to take on the new semester.

1. Check Out Your School’s Resources

Before looking elsewhere, see what trusty resources are available at your school. Schools will often have essay writing services that will give you strategies to research more effectively. For example, the Purdue Online Writing Lab is a popular resource for essay writing and research tips. Your school’s library will also have access to academic databases like the MLA International Bibliography.

2. Search Unique Keywords

When doing research for the topic of your essay, you will want to use specific keywords to find relevant sources. The broader the keyword you search is, the more results your search will yield. This is actually a bad thing, since most of those results won’t be relevant to your research. Use specific, unique keywords to narrow your search results to more relevant sources. For example, if you’re researching victorian clothing, search specific articles of clothing, such as “victorian horsehair petticoat,” as opposed to “victorian clothing.”

3. Use Specific Phrases

Here’s a quick but effective keyword search hack: put quotations around the phrase you are searching. This tells Google that you are looking specifically for words in the order you are quoting, rather than searching for results that contain any combination of those words. For example, if you are researching the average income of millennials compared to Generation X, you could search “average income of millennials” to get results that use that exact phrasing.

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average ex

    4. Use Google Scholar

    Google Scholar is an index of specifically scholarly publications. Using Google Scholar eliminates the step of sifting through all of the irrelevant and unreliable results in Google’s regular search. Many of the articles indexed on Google Scholar aren’t free to read, however–but it’s still a good way to find specific articles for your essay, which you can then look for at your school library.

    google scholar

      5. Use Google Books

      This is one of my favorite services from Google. Google Books is an index of specifically book publications. It’s a great way to find reputable sources on specific topics. Typically, Google Books will only offer sample sections of books, but you can still find valuable information. Plus, Google Books always displays the copyright pages in their previews, so you can properly cite the book in your essay. Google Books is a great way to see if a book will be useful before looking for it at a library.

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        6. Browse Message Boards

        This might seem counter intuitive—after all, chatting is usually something you do to procrastinate. But message boards can be a great source for insights on a topic and links to useful resources, particularly if your essay is about a niche topic. A lot of message boards exist for specialized interests. For instance, if you’re working on a history project about World War I, there are many message boards for history enthusiasts, who share old photographs and documents. Places like these can be a goldmine for unique material.

        7. Use the Advanced Search Function

        On the Google homepage, click “Settings” and then select “Advanced Search.” This will open up the Advanced Search function, which allows you to narrow down your search by filters like language, region, and file type. You can also search for exact words or phrases, as well as eliminate results with certain words or phrases.

        google advanced search

          8. Set a Search Time Limit

          It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole when searching for something online. One page leads to another, and suddenly you’re on a site about what your whiskey personality is when you were supposed to be researching ancient Greek festivals. Setting a time limit for how long you can pursue one keyword at a time will help keep you on track. For example, set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes: this will allow you time to search a keyword, to skim various sites, and to jot down some important notes. If you find a site with a lot of useful information, bookmark it so you can dedicate more time to looking through it after.

          9. Annotate Your Notes as You Research

          Part of your assignment might be to submit an annotated bibliography. But even if it isn’t part of your assignment, writing down some notes about a source before moving on to the next one can be very helpful. You will probably look through tens, if not hundreds of pages while researching, so figuring out which source said what afterwards can end up wasting a lot of time. Create a document with the links to your sources, the author (if one is cited) and a few key points about the article. This will prompt you to remember which article is which.

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          10. Know Which Sources Are Reliable

          Let’s face it: the internet is full of trash. Anyone can write anything and publish it on the web. For every reputable source you find on a topic, there will be 100 unreliable sources. How do you sift through the unreliable sources? A good place to start is, of course, your school’s library search engine. Your school’s library will already have an index of peer-reviewed and scholarly resources. But even if you’re using a regular search engine, there are indicators you can look for to confirm if a source is reliable or not.

          Look into the organization that runs the website: is it a public organization or a nonprofit organization? For example, Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan think tank and a popular source for statistical information.

          pew research

            Or ask, is the site privately owned? The information can still be legitimate if it’s privately owned, but be conscious of how a company may present information in a way that favors their business. Even data can be biased.

            Also look to see if the author has cited their sources. Most reputable sources will list the sources they drew their information from.

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            11. Use Online Libraries and Encyclopedias

            Depending on the size of your school’s library, you may have limited access to certain books you want to use for your essay. Luckily, there are a number of online libraries that are free to access. Books on Project Gutenberg, for example, are completely free to read and use. You can also access certain online encyclopedias for free, like Encyclopaedia Britannica. These will give you access to articles on a wide variety of topics, and are credible sources that you can cite in your bibliography.

            12. Use More Than One Search Engine

            Keep in mind that different search engines index results differently. That’s because they have different bots crawling and indexing pages. So if you feel you’ve exhausted your results on Google, try using Bing or Yahoo! to see if your searches yield different results.

            bing

              Using any combination of these online research hacks will make the research and essay writing process easier and more effective. Now keep these research hacks in mind and get back to enjoying your summer!

              Featured photo credit: www.unsplash.com via unsplash.com

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              Last Updated on January 13, 2020

              Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

              Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

              Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

              Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

              Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

              Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

              How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

              The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

              You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

              Physical Signs

              Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

              It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

              In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

              Mental Signs

              One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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              I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

              Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

              • The tension in your neck
              • Difficulties with sleeping
              • Unable to concentrate
              • High anxiety
              • Depression

              If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

              Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

              Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

              The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

              Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

              Desire for an Increase of Salary

              The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

              At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

              Overnight Decision

              Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

              Rejected for a Promotion

              I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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              Bored at Work

              Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

              A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

              • How long have you worked in your career?
              • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
              • Do you receive recognition?
              • Can you consider working in a new department?

              If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

              How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

              I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

              One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

              It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

              A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

              You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

              • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
              • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
              • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

              How to Make a Career Change Successfully

              The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

              1. Write a Career Plan

              A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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              You can learn how to set your career plan here.

              2. Weigh Your Options

              If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

              You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

              3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

              It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

              A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

              • Economic factors
              • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
              • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
              • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
              • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

                A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

                4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

                A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

                • What is required to be successful in the role?
                • What certification or educational development is needed?
                • What are the challenges of the role?
                • Is there potential for career advancement?

                A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

                Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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                5. Research Salary

                Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

                It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

                6. Be Realistic

                If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

                For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

                Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

                7. Volunteer First

                A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

                Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

                Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

                8. Prepare Your Career Tools

                I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

                • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
                • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
                • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
                • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

                Bottom Line

                It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

                Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

                More About Career Change

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                Reference

                [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
                [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
                [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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