Wondering how to make the most of your research time and hit your deadlines? Check out our 7 top tips for effective research online
1.Have a question in mind
It might sound strange but the most effective way to research online is to know the answer you’re looking for. When any single search term can bring up millions of results, you’re guaranteed to find irrelevant content. Having a specific question and answer in mind helps you narrow it down and quickly get rid of the content that doesn’t matter. Write the question down (or use it as your Wakelet collection title) so that it acts as a constant reminder. And be ruthless; if an article, blog or video doesn’t answer that question, it shouldn’t be part of your research.
2.Keep to a schedule
Starting a big research project can be overwhelming. You’re faced with an endless number of potential sources and a looming deadline. One technique that I’ve also found helpful is to implement a research schedule. Take a step back and put a timeline in place. If your work is due in six weeks, for example, do you need to have a draft in five and an outline in four? Work backwards until you have a research period marked out. Then look at your diary – can you spend three hours in the library during free periods and block out a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon? When you have this dedicated research time in place, it’ll help you stay focused.
3.Organize, organize, organize
When you’re researching online, you’ll likely gather a lot of information, quickly. You need to be organized from the start, before you get buried in links! Luckily, Wakelet can help. Why not create a collect for each source type (articles, videos, blogs, for example) or break it down by topic? You can even use the Notes feature to remind yourself why you saved that source or which section of the article will be most useful when you revisit your research. And best of all, you’re not just left with a list of links – your bookmarks will be visual, engaging, and easily identifiable.
4.Follow where the research takes you
The most effective researchers don’t limit themselves. As long as you’re discerning with the sources you save, it’s worth taking a chance and following an unfamiliar lead. If a helpful article cites a paper by an academic you’ve not heard of or a speech you’ve never seen, add those to your research list. In the same way that you might investigate the bibliography of a textbook, the sources mentioned in online content can be just as useful, help to expand your research, and offer an alternative perspective to more familiar sources.
5.Gather info as you go
So, you have your timetable sorted and you’ve been setting aside dedicated research time but someone just tweeted an article that could be really relevant and you’re in the park eating lunch – what do you do? Thanks to Wakelet, you don’t have to wait ‘til you get home or like the Tweet but let it get lost in your timeline by the time you’re sitting down to research again. Instead, use the Wakelet app to quickly and easily add any piece of content into your collections. With the share extension, it only takes a couple of clicks and your content will be there, waiting for you, as soon as you’re back on your desktop at home.
6.Evaluate your sources
While you shouldn’t limit your research, you do need to be discerning when it comes to online sources. After all, almost anyone can get their work published online, whether they’re uploading their own videos to YouTube, writing on their own blog, or expressing themselves in 280 characters on Twitter. And it can be tough to tell fact from fiction. Be vigilant and assess every source – even the most credible – with a critical eye. Ask yourself, is the author writing from a particular perspective? Is their account backed up by other sources? Do they have an ulterior motive? Question yourself and your sources regularly.
7.Don’t limit what you look for
Talk about research and most people think about academic journals, articles written by professors, and official records. These are, of course, all important sources but, in the modern digital age, you shouldn’t discount other forms of media. YouTube is home to a host of documentary-standard videos, podcasts are often helmed by respected investigative journalists or leaders in their field, and historic minstrels can be found on Spotify. Enrich your research by making the most of these more unusual sources.