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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 February 11, 2021

              10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

              10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

              Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

              You have to work hard to develop the right skills

              If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

              1. Make your presentation short and sweet

              With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

              JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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              2. Open up with a good ice breaker

              At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

              • Joking
              • Tugging on their heart strings
              • Dropping a bombastic statement
              • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
              • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

              You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

              3. Keep things simple and to the point

              Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

              4. Use a healthy dose of humor

              Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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              It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

              5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

              Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

              6. Practice your delivery

              Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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              7. Move around and use your hands

              Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

              8. Engage the audience by making them relate

              Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

              9. Use funny images in your slides

              Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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              10. End on a more serious note

              When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

              As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

              Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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