Challenges Faced When Searching Internet Resources

It is certainly true that “the amount of information that is readily and quickly available on the Internet is unprecedented” (McMillan, 2007, pp. 73).  Thus, searching the Internet for sources should not cause challenges relating to access.  The challenge I have experienced is the ability to sift through the information in order to find the most appropriate and relevant sources.  I have always gravitated to Google Scholar for help in locating credible sources, but “one of the most difficult aspects of using the Internet for educational research is that, unlike databases such as ERIC, there is no standard controlled vocabulary that facilitates a search” (McMillan, 2007, pp. 74).  Brainstorming appropriate terminology is often necessary in order to find the most accurate search results.  I find it most helpful to understand the nuances among educational buzzwords in order to truly facilitate this ease of access.  Then, I focus on limitations specific to my query.  For example, the difference in a ‘voucher’ versus a ‘waiver’ is incredibly important when researching.  My students were discussing SAT fee waivers, but utilizing the word ‘voucher’ – a search for ‘SAT voucher’ pulls a plethora of articles relating to charter schools, when what they were interested in was the socioeconomic reasons behind SAT fee waivers.

 

A second challenge I sometimes encounter is the ability to access the study in its entirety.  There is nothing more disappointing than locating what seems like a perfect source, only to find that you cannot read beyond the abstract.  Since I live in Charlottesville, I will sometimes utilize the UVA public libraries for full access to JLAB.  I will also add search queries for the primary researcher to see if similar studies were published and available, or attempt to access related studies.

 

The final challenge occurs after information is located.  If fortunate enough to obtain a selection of articles related to the research, one must then evaluate the information and determine what can be included, and how.  Schwiesow (2010) stresses the importance of “mak[ing] sense of the data you have collected.”  She suggests connecting your own research to the information you have found, which sets parameters and grounds your study.  You then must “stay focused” so that you are not “distracted by irrelevant data”, and finally account for biases.  I often organize my sources by utilizing Evernote; not only does it help to keep information structured, but it is accessible online from any device, so my research is not limited to a flash drive or home computer.  I am considering the incorporation of Evernote into my student’s research projects next year.

 

McMillan, J. H. (2007). Educational Research: Fundamentals for the Consumer 6th ed. Pearson.

 

Schwiesow, D. (2010, January 1).  7 Research Challenges (And how to overcome them).  Retrieved May 05, 2016, from https://www.waldenu.edu/about/newsroom/publications/articles/2010/01-research-challenges

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