Online research in higher education is a journey. It can take you to unexpected places – places where you have never been before. As with any journey to exotic lands, it is best to have a packing list to make sure you are prepared. Here is what you’ll need:
Plane Ticket Think of your assignment as your plane ticket. It will tell you your final destination. Look through it carefully. Highlight the important elements of the assignment, like when it is due, the length, and what specifically the assignment is asking of you. Think about the time it might take you to complete the task. Just as you would never go on a trip without knowing your departure date, where you were going, how you were getting there, the same is true for online research.
Itinerary After you have reviewed your assignment, you need to think about how you are going to accomplish those goals. Think of your specific topic. What about that topic is interesting to you? With this information you can create a plan. Come up with search terms or keywords that will sum up the ideas of your online research, and then come up with synonyms of those terms. Planning takes the stress out of travel and research. Keep in mind that it is important to have a plan, but you also need to be flexible. Just like when you travel, you may spot something interesting that changes your plans. If you are too rigid you may miss something spectacular. A good traveler is always prepared, but also prepared to adapt.
A Tour Guide There are times when you need one-on-one interaction to help you plan your journey. It is valuable to contact someone before and during your trip who can point you to the local hangouts, best places to grab breakfast, and the “can’t miss” sites. In the world of research, librarians are your tour guides. Remember, librarians are here to help you, whether you are completely lost or just need someone to ask if you are on the right train (of thought). They are happy to point you in the right direction, mention a few interesting sights, and give you some insider tips.
Travel Books If you are unsure or get lost on your adventure, look for library tutorials and tip sheets to guide your way. Most libraries and library websites will provide you with tutorials on how to do online research and use their databases. Take a moment to look for them and keep them handy for the moments when you need some help.
An Adventurous Spirit When you travel you create new opportunities to see something different, learn something new, and change your perception of the world. It can be challenging at times, but it is also genuinely rewarding. The same is true for online research. If you approach it with an open mind and adventurous spirit your life will be enriched for the experience. Just be sure to leave early to avoid any unexpected detours.
Written by: Rebecca Nowicki Rebecca Nowicki is a Digital Services Librarian at Ashford University. She has a Masters of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University , and a BA in Theatre with a background in the arts and sciences. In her role at Ashford University she acts as the library liaison for the College of Liberal Arts, provides references services, and is in charge of marketing library resources and services to students and faculty.