Doing online searches

By Gordon Rugg

So how do you actually do an online search?

The most common approach is to type 2.4 words into Google, with 14% of those words spelled wrong, and 6% of those words being about sex. That isn’t exactly the most inspiringly professional or efficient way of operating.

A more professional and efficient way of operating is as follows:

  • Read the manual and learn how to get the most out of the software you’re using (e.g. by using the “advanced search” features)
  • Read some articles about best practice in online search
  • Ask your friendly librarian for help and advice

When online search is involved, I do all of those things myself, and very useful they are too.

Many of my previous articles have been about the unwritten craft skills involved in some aspect of research. With online search, for a change, there’s plenty of readily available information about the craft skills, so I’m not planning to re-cover ground that’s already been covered well by other people. Instead, I’ll give some examples of what those craft skills and of how they can help make your online searches easier and better. I’ve also included some keywords that should help you find useful tutorial articles quickly and easily.

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Finding the right references, part 3: Breadth, depth and the T model

By Gordon Rugg

In the previous article in this series, I looked at ways of getting a mental overview of the key concepts in an area.

In today’s article, I’ll look at how to decide which are the core articles that you need, in a way that should be swift, simple and manageable.

t model part3v2

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Finding the right references, part 2: Getting a first overview

By Gordon Rugg

In a previous article, I looked at some issues that affect how and why finding the right academic references can be difficult. In today’s article, I’ll look at how to set about finding those references, beginning with the familiar problem of reading lists.

Some lecturers supply reading lists; others don’t.

Reading lists can be very comforting, because someone else has already done the thinking for you, and has told you what you need to know. There’s also the nice implicit message that you only need to know what’s on that list, so there’s a limit to the work ahead.

It’s a comforting feeling while it lasts, but there’s usually a small voice at the back of your mind asking what will happen when you leave university and enter a world where nobody is likely to give you a reassuring list of the things that you need to know.

Which brings us back to the lecturers who don’t supply reading lists, and who expect you to find information for yourself, with only a few words of guidance, such as “Weber’s work on bureaucracies is the place to start” or “Good question; that’s a classic sociotechnical problem”.

Where do you go from that sort of start? Your friendly librarians will usually be very happy to give you good advice about how to locate information online, and often, that advice will find you exactly what you want. However, there are some other quick and dirty methods that you might find useful. They’re what this article is about.

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