10 Tips for Successful Online Research in Adult Education

Time saving strategies are provided for making the most of online resources for finding research sources for college papers and other research projects.

While reading the syllabus for a new course you discovered there is a research paper project. These types of projects often require the need to carry out online research to find sources. The online world is vast, often making such research a time consuming drain on valuable study time. So what do you do? The following top 10 tips for successful online research below will help make time dedicated for research more efficient.

College Library: Use Their Web Services for Research

Do not forget about your college or university library online services. Many adult education students often forget about their library’s website. Starting with the library’s online card catalog is a good place to begin any search for scholarly sources. Using the library’s online catalog is an essential skill you may want to develop. Here are four tips for finding online research sources through the library’s website.

Use Online Databases – these databases provide the most current information required in most research papers. The benefit of using these resources is the ability to download full text copies of articles – free!

Use Inter-Library Loan (ILL) – this is a service many students enrolled in adult education do not know about or have forgotten. An ILL is used to obtain a reference source, book or document, not available in your school’s library. The library requests to borrow a book or obtain a copy of a document from other college libraries holding the reference source. This service is often free and fast.

Use Online Research Guides – these are guides developed by librarians tailored to specific subjects or topics. A research guide saves time and helps guide you along the correct path for completing a project.

Use the Ask a Librarian Feature – reference librarians are excellent sources of help and they are there to help you. Ensure the question you ask is clear and concise to allow a quick and accurate response to your research question.

Search Engines: Finding Resources and Articles on the Web

Search engines are the most popular online search tools many adult students use to find sources for a research paper. Although this method of research is popular among students, the sources are often not as reliable as those found through your library’s online research resources. Here are four tips for finding online sources.

Use a Search Engine – using the search feature of Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, or one of the many other search engines helps narrow a search for sources.

Use Google Scholar – this specialized Google search tool ranks documents by authority using what, when, where, how, and who to establish the value of a scholarly article according to your search. Its sources are those found in peer-reviewed literature and online journals.

Use Caution – often online resources are not trustworthy and acceptable for research papers. Most course instructors and professors will only accept cited sources from other educational institutions, government agencies, related research foundations and organizations, and peer-reviewed journals. These are considered trustworthy, because the web is woven with many unreliable sources of information.

Use Wikipedia – this goes against Use Caution. However, this is a good place to begin a search to find reliable and trustworthy research sources for a paper. Few instructors and professors accept this Wikipedia for citation, because in most cases the information is input by non-qualified individuals.

Other Web Based Tools: Online Organization of Research Paper Reference Sources

One common problem many students in adult education programs encounter is organizing their sources to complete a research paper into a usable format. The following are two online resources for organizing research sources.

Use an Online Bibliography Service – MyBib Pro is a popular online bibliography service for college, master’s, and PhD students. This program supports APA, Chicago Style/Turabian, and MLA bibliography formats. This bibliography service formats sources for citation as a footnote or for citation within text. It also prepares citations for citing websites, journals, databases, newspapers, and books.

Use Diigo – this is an online social bookmarking tool for creating a virtual library of online reference sources. There are two features which make this tool valuable when searching for information, which are:

  • Highlighting – you can highlight text in an online document or website just like in a textbook or print copy of a document.
  • Sticky Notes – this tool also provides the ability to attach virtual sticky notes to online sources to place reminders on saved online research sources.

These 10 tips for successfully completing online research are focused on making the process easier and saving time. After all you and your fellow adult education students have many pressures to deal with – family, work, and school. Organization and time saving approaches are the habits of successful adult learners, so why not give these tips a try!

About Brent Staples 5 Articles

Brent Staples is an author and an editorial writer for the New York Times. His books include An American Love Story and Parallel Time: Growing up In Black and White, He writes about political, social and cultural issues, including race (his 1986 essay in Ms. Magazine “Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space” is deemed canonical) and the state of the American school system.

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