Advertising

12 Student Hacks To Become A Better Online Researcher

12 Student Hacks To Become A Better Online Researcher
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

      Advertising

      google books

        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.

          Advertising

          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.

            Advertising

            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

              Advertising

              More by this author

              Sara McGuire

              Content Editor

              7 Fundamental Design Principles You Can Learn From Star Wars [Infographic] graphic design 10 Graphic Design Software Alternatives to Photoshop 8 Tips to Make Engaging Presentation Slides How to Turn a Process Into an Infographic Poster [Infographic] How to Choose the Best Colors For Your Data Charts

              Trending in Work

              1 How To Stay Motivated As You Build Your Business 2 15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow 3 23 Tips for New Entrepreneurs to Get Your Business Underway 4 20 All-Time Best Entrepreneur Books to Make Your Business Successful 5 Why Mentoring Matters: A Guide on a Stellar Example for Employees

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising

              Published on July 27, 2021

              15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

              15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
              Advertising

              During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

              But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

              Put the Pro in Professional

              After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

              1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

              The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

              Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

              2. Dress the Part

              While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

              Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

              For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

              Advertising

              Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

              3. Stage Your Workspace

              Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

              Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

              4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

              Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

              Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

              Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

              Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

              5. Arrive on Time

              In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

              Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

              Advertising

              6. Turn on Your Video

              Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

              If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

              Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

              7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

              Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

              Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

              Attend to the Pesky Details

              8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

              With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

              Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

              9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

              Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

              Advertising

              Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

              10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

              As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

              Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

              Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

              Talking Has a Time and a Place

              11. Chat Appropriately

              Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

              At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

              12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

              The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

              Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

              Advertising

              13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

              In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

              Manage Yourself

              14. Minimize Distractions

              While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

              Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

              15. Save Snacking for Later

              Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

              However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

              Final Thoughts

              Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

              Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

              Reference

              Read Next