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Steve -- a.k.a. Oreport
Steve -- a.k.a. Oreport, B. A. & M. Ed. -- Perpetual Student
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What is your overall strategy for conducting academic Web researches

Customer Question

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Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Homework
Expert:  Dr. T replied 11 years ago.
Imagine your earth science teacher has instructed you to create a multimedia report. You decide that your report will be about volcanoes. If you do a random search on Google using the keyword volcanoes, your search would retrieve more than 480,000 results. That's too much to handle, so:

Step 1: Formulate Research Questions

Start by writing specific research questions. Doing so will help you narrow your topic and determine exactly what information you need.

Sample questions:

How do volcanoes form?

What causes volcanoes to erupt?

What happens when a volcano erupts?

How many active volcanoes are there in the United States? in the world?

Can we predict volcanic eruptions?

What dangers are associated with volcanic eruptions?

Step 2: List Possible Sources of Information

Before going online, try to identify any sources that might have information on your topic. For example, you might list:

government agencies, such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), or the National Park Service

museums with exhibits on volcanoes

university science departments specializing in volcano research

National Geographic or PBS/NOVA might have TV documentaries on famous volcanoes or volcanic eruptions. Perhaps they would also have information or interactive explorations on their Web sites.

Step 3: Brainstorm Possible Media Elements

Since you're creating a multimedia report, you'll need to find a variety of media resources, in addition to traditional informative texts. For example, you might try to look for:

video clips of erupting volcanoes

3-D animations showing how volcanoes form or what happens when volcanoes erupt

photographs and maps of active and inactive volcanoes

audio interviews with volcanologists

Review the questions, sources, and media elements you brainstormed in Steps 1–3, and circle the keywords.

Step 5: Ready . . . Set . . . Search!

You're finally ready to choose a tool(s) and begin your search. Depending on the time you have and your own personal preference, you can start with a search engine, directory, or a specific site of your own choice. Here are three possible ways you might begin:

Using a Directory Let's say that you're interested in getting a general idea of the information available on volcanoes and that your time is somewhat limited. In this case, you might visit one or more directories to get an idea of the kinds of links available for your topic.

Using a Search Engine If you are looking for very specific information, you might want to start with a search engine. Use the keywords you identified in Step 4 to develop your search query. The trick is to try several combinations of keywords, using terms from all three columns in your keyword chart. Possible keyword combinations include: volcanoes and dangers; volcanoes and photographs and erupt; volcanoes and National Park Service; and volcanoes and predict and eruption. Visit Refining Your Search for more tips.

Using Bookmarked Sites If, somewhere throughout your Web travels, you've bookmarked a reliable science Web site or one focusing specifically on volcanoes, try starting there. Explore its information and (if possible) visit the other sites it links to.

Remember—there's no one right way to conduct research on the Web. Just be sure to start with a strategy and experiment with different search tools to get the best results.

If you are not getting the results you expected from a search engine, one simple step you can take is to make changes to your search query. Try using different modifiers, phrases, or synonyms to make your query even more specific.

In addition, you might read the Help or Search Tips page of each search engine to help you refine your search. These features guide you on how to use advanced search techniques. One common type of advanced search is called a Boolean search. With Boolean searches, you can increase the accuracy of your searches by specifying the relationships among keywords and phrases. The most commonly used Boolean operators include AND, OR, and NOT.

AND searches

sports AND baseball
The Boolean operator AND tells a search engine to search for all documents that contain both words in your query.

OR searches

sports OR baseball
The Boolean operator OR broadens or widens a search to include all documents that contain either keyword.

NOT searches

sports NOT baseball
The Boolean operator NOT excludes unwanted terms from

Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Dr. T's Post: I need a specific answer thanks.
Expert:  Don replied 11 years ago.

I think that Dr. T's answer was the best possible considering that your question was rather vague. Also, to ask for an "overall strategy" and then respond that you need a "specific answer" is completely contradictory. I believe that his answer was very helpful and that you should accept it. Perhaps you could ask a *detailed* follow up question and he could help you more.

Expert:  Steve -- a.k.a. Oreport replied 11 years ago.

What, exactly, do you mean by a: 'specific answer'?

Thanks in advance.


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