Research Using Technology

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain how to research using technology

Research Using the Internet

Two students laughing together during a research session with their laptops.

Using the Internet when researching for a class assignment is an essential skill for any successful student. The research process should not be frustrating or difficult when you follow the steps of the research process and evaluate your sources so you only use credible and reliable information. Before we discuss the process for researching using the Internet, it is important to think about what research is. This short video will provide you with a basic understanding of the research process.

Research Process

The research process includes a range of steps to ensure you are successful in finding the information you need using the Internet. The first step is to define your topic. While this statement seems straightforward, it is important to think about what you are actually researching for an assignment. A professor may give you a general topic as a starting point for your research. If you use the general topic when conducting research on the Internet, you could receive millions of results. Instead, think about what you really want to learn from your research and narrow the focus of your topic to something that is manageable.

If you find that you are having trouble understanding your topic or even narrowing the focus of your topic, find background information. This background information can be from a range of sources. Think about Wikipedia, which is ostensibly an encyclopedia. While for most topics, Wikipedia can provide you with the background you need to better understand your topic, it is always important to evaluate the information you find on the Internet for accuracy.

Once you define your topic and have a better understanding of the issues related to your topic based on your background research, you can develop a research question to guide your research using the Internet. Your research question should provide enough information that anyone can understand the purpose of your research. Once you have a research question, you can use your research question to develop a research strategy. Your research strategy will comprise the main concepts of your research question that can be used as your keywords and search terms.

Now that you have a research strategy, you will need to choose a proper search tool. This tool can be a search engine like Google or maybe a library database that is available to you through your institution. As you think about which search tool to select, it is important to think about what type of information you need. You can use a general search engine like Google to find a range of information, but may need to use a library database to find scholarly journal articles.

Finally, you will perform your search and evaluate your results. As you look at your search results, consider if the information you are finding answers your research question and is from a reliable source.

Try It

Search Strategy

Now that you have an understanding of your topic, have defined what you will be researching, and have utilized background information to develop a research question, it is time to develop a search strategy. If your general topic is “social media privacy,” it is helpful to focus your research question. You can focus your search on something like, what action should social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook take to protect users’ personal information and privacy?

From the above research question, you can develop your research strategy by focusing on the main concepts in your research question.

  •  Social Networks
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
  • Users
  • Personal Information
  • Privacy

Using these key concepts from your research question, you can develop your search strategy.

Build a Strong Search Strategy

Learn how to build a strong search strategy through this video below.

Tips and Tricks for Internet Searching

In this search strategy, you see there are a number of different things happening: “social networks” AND user* AND “personal information” AND privacy.

You see that social networks and personal information are in quotes. These quotations are called phrase searching. By placing quotation marks around a phrase, you are telling the search tool to look for those words together. In this case, the search tool will look for the words social network together and the words personal information. This ensures more accurate results when you search.

You will also notice an asterisk after the search term user. This asterisk is called truncation and will tell the database to search for not only user but other terms that start with user like users.

You will notice the word AND capitalized between each search term/phrase. This capitalization is a Boolean operator and it tells the search tool to connect my search terms together and look for a source that includes all the terms. You can broaden your search by using the OR Boolean operator to search for Twitter or Facebook. And the NOT Boolean operator to search for Twitter NOT Facebook.

You can find additional tips for searching the Internet here.

Evaluating Information to Determine Credibility

Once you find information through your search strategy, it is important to evaluate the information you are using to determine if it is credible and reliable. You can do this by using the CRAAP test. CRAAP stands for

  • Currency,
  • Relevancy,
  • Authority,
  • Accuracy, and
  • Purpose.

You can learn more about the CRAAP test as a tool to evaluate Internet sources here.

SIFT Method

You can also evaluate information using the SIFT method. Explore the following interactive to learn more about SIFT.

Attributing Your Sources in Your Writing

When using information from a source such as a website, journal article, magazine article, newspaper article, or books and eBooks, it is important that you attribute these ideas in your academic writing. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) is a great source of information on how to cite your sources.


Boolean operator: terms such as AND, OR, and NOT that can be inserted to categorically focus an online search

phrase searching: the online research technique that involves placing quotations around a phrase, which tells a search tool to look for those words together

truncation: the online research technique that places an asterisk after a term to find terms that include and extend from the original term


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