Lifestyle, technology: web search skills

Self-tutoring about web research: the tutor reflects about search skills.

Nowadays, information is so widely available on the internet, that searching for it has become an invaluable skill. One key to being a good internet researcher, however, is to “think like most people.” I believe that if you can ask the question the way most people would, you’ll likely find its answer on the internet, if available.

I recall hearing, for instance, about a video game that many say existed in the ’80s, but might be an urban legend. Today, I couldn’t remember its name. How to ask for a name you can’t type in?

In Google Search, I keyed “name of that video game that doesn’t exist” and pressed Enter. Amazingly, the name Polybius appeared in the suggestions. It’s definitely the name I was trying to recall.

I suspect the success of that search is because many others have already keyed in the exact same one.

When searching the ‘net, sometimes just asking the unfiltered question can get the best result.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Internet research: the tutor comments

The tutor opens a discussion of research in today’s context.

Nowadays, virtually everyone counts on the internet not just for entertainment, but for important information.  Travelers likely use it to access ferry schedules, highway routes, and weather forecasts.  DIYers might use it to gain advice about projects. Of course, students use it for research towards papers.

I think there are more mundane uses people make of the internet that aren’t even considered research.  Recipes, for example, are easy to get from it.  In fact, I think the internet offers better coverage of recipes than of academic information.

If you use the internet to find a garlic bread recipe (which I did, here), you needn’t report the source or judge its validity. You’ll know by how the bread turns out whether it’s a good one. (BTW: that recipe worked out well for me on the first try:) The recipe is likely not controversial; moreover, you’re not quoting it.

Compared to the safety of recipe hunting, academic research can be a whole other thing. There might be four reasons:

  1. The point is usually to write an article based on what you find from the sources.
  2. Often, an academic article is based on surprise or controversy.
  3. Unlike a recipe, an academic article can’t be “proven in the pudding.” Its only legitimacy may be its credibility.
  4. People who read an academic article like to see evidence you’ve “done your homework.”

For the above reasons, it’s my opinion that citing sources is much more important for academic research than for domestic.

Of course, if one cites sources, it’s best to have good ones. Below are some of my favourites. A regular reader of this blog might recognize them:

I’ll be talking more about research in future posts.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.