In honor of my flat-out run to research, I thought I'd provide a few pointers for those of you who, like me, are not exactly technologically-backward, but close enough to need any help you can get. I love physical research methods, but let's face it--it is not always feasible to stop your actual work/school day in order to dig up that series of articles on post-Revolution era France. You have to be sneaky about it. Sneaky, and quick.
Hello, Internet. Say it with me. Click, search, minimize, and the boss will never know.
Just kidding. Of course we know! You think your guilty faces don't give you away?
Anyway, there are a few shortcuts that absolutely blew my mind when it came right down to the wire, in terms of research. Here are some tactics I've found useful:
1.) Refined Searches via Operators. Though this is mainly aimed at Google, because that's what I tend to use, I believe it works for most search engines. Don't quote me on that.
The concept is simple. Say you are looking up information of the clinical variations of Asperger's Syndrome. Do you want some hokey blogger's personal experiences with their childhood next door neighbor? Okay, maybe--but not right now. What you really want is factual, learned information that can guide you from A to B.
In the search bar, you would type the key words with the following operator: "Asperger's Syndrome site:.edu"
This will give you only educational sites. You can do with same with site:.gov, site:.org, site:.pdf, whatever. You can even do it with site:.wordpress.com later, when you are ready for personal anecdotes from hokey bloggers like yours truly. Or, once you've found a site that is particularly helpful, you can use that site's domain name as an operator to refine the search. "Site:" tells the search engine you want websites (as opposed to photos or whatever), and the operator ".edu" tells the search engine you only want educational resources. That's just an example; you can modify both in any number of ways.
You wouldn't believe how stoked I was when I discovered this type of shortcut. I hope I explained it properly...
2. E-reading. Though I do have a smallish section devoted in my right-hand margin to this wonderful, eye-hurting phenomena, it really doesn't cover all you can do. Yes, you can try looking through the various e-reading/e-book sites for something you might need, or...
You can try a PDF search engine. Who knew? This was another one that got me all hot and bothered, lol. My favorites are www.PDFgeni.com and www.pdf-search-engine.com, but I'm sure there are any number of others you can use. Plus, you can try refining these searches with above mentioned Tactic Number 1. I don't know; I haven't needed to yet.
3.) The Wayback Machine. This is both a small point and a huge point; small because it's only one part of www.archive.org, but huge because it can be so terribly, terribly handy. This is what you use when you already know your site/document and simply can't find it because the domain name has expired or been bought or whatever; you type it into the Wayback Machine bar, and ZIP-ZAM-ZOWWIE, it shoots you to a page with a calendar of access dates and usage information for that site/document. From there it's hit or miss; you simply click on an access date on one of the calendars, and then you have the page that was accessed that day in history. True, sometimes it's not the right page, but when you do happen upon the right page, this insane sense of satisfaction will settle upon you. (Wow, that was a very sibilant section of a sentence, wasn't it?) Does it always work? No. But when it does, I promise it's awesome.
There are a few other tactics I really like to use, but none are so neat or quick as my top three. What are your top three Internet research tactics? Sharing is caring, folks...