6 Strategies For Developing Research Skills As An Online Student | Online learning lessons


As an undergraduate student in the early 1990s, I have vivid memories of my professors repeatedly demanding that I “cite my sources”. The students had a healthy fear of plagiarism instilled in them, coupled with a mandate to support original ideas through authoritative expert writing.

This was before the Internet – a time when students had to physically go to the library, learn to consult books or photocopy newspapers, read them, incorporate important quotes into assignments and essays, and correctly cite sources in the prescribed format. Things have certainly changed.

Online students now have oceans of information at their fingertips, a double-edged sword creating a conundrum between access to information and quality. This is a population that is particularly exposed to the risk of drowning in the ocean of information, of citing sources incorrectly, of declaring incorrect information or of not fully citing a source.

Because online learners literally have to use course material on the internet rather than in the physical classroom, it becomes too easy to copy and paste an unsubstantiated fact into a discussion board or assignment without giving it scientific consideration. rigorous. The (dis) information superhighway, social media and unverified opinions posted to the web are just a click away from the online classroom.

The following six strategies can help online students produce more solid research.

1. Contact a librarian before you get stuck sifting through lots of information online: A 2016 Information Education project find that only 9 percent of respondents cited librarians as a primary source of learning, while 88 percent said they rely primarily on search engines. Many university library websites have a librarian chat feature and other means of remotely contacting a librarian. Reaching out at the start of a project to clarify the topic, research questions, methodologies, and best potential sources will improve the research process and the project.

2. Consider that when in doubt, it is wiser to over-quote the sources than to risk plagiarism: Many learning management systems use plagiarism detection features that flag suspicious language for the instructor to investigate further. As a faculty member, I am always happier telling a student that a citation is not needed for a common fact, rather than wondering if I am reading the student’s own words or those of someone else. Online students can use free plagiarism checkers such as PlagScan Where Grammar to ensure that a mission is compliant.

3. Use Google and Wikipedia at the start of a search process, not at the end: The first pages of search engine results are usually the most popular and commercial sources of information, which are not necessarily the most scholarly or authoritative. It’s best to think of Wikipedia as a popular source table of contents on an idea rather than the most definitive source. Links at the bottom of a Wikipedia entry are useful starting points.

4. Don’t think of the web as your only source of information: Online students can access premium databases that are not publicly accessible such as ProQuest, EBSCO, JSTOR, Naxos, and Elsevier. These databases contain electronic access to published journals, magazines, newspapers, books, reports, documents, essays, image collections, films, videos, archival records and audio recordings. The difference between searching these collections and searching the web as a whole is that these sources are peer reviewed and copyrighted, and do not contain commercial results.

5. Understand the teacher’s expectations for the citation format: Before using a scholarly reference citation tool such as CiteULike, Zotero, Where BibDesk, understand that a teacher’s requirements may differ from the default settings for these tools.

6. Understand Why professors still attribute research projects: Research is not a busy job or an outdated vestige of higher education. The research and mastery of the information necessary to produce it remain professional skills in demand. Online students must be able to search and research scholarly information with precision, evaluate it, contextualize it; think, speak and write critically about it; and synthesize it to inform opinions and make good decisions. Graduates who have honed these abilities will quickly become the most valued in the workplace. If these skills are not developed, then the online student is missing something.

Takeaway meals: As online students assimilate new knowledge, skills, and abilities into the pursuit of a degree or certificate, sifting through the abundant amounts of useful and unnecessary information must be viewed as a special skill in need of development. Seeking online help from research and reference librarians is an essential practice, and online students should work to develop healthy habits of finding information and scholarly citations.


Paul N. Strickland

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