Conducting Research Using Online News

When you get online in the morning, one of the first things you might do is go onto a news site to find out what has happened in the world. This can also be a valuable way to get information about a topic you need to research.

There are many ways you can research your topic online, using tools from search engines as well as the main news Web sites.

News Web Sites

You might want to look at the news sites that are already available online. These sites post new information on an hourly basis, while also storing past news stories and articles.

It can help to have a list of the news sites that provide the most reliable and accurate information for your needs. Some popular sites include:

  • CNN
  • Guardian
  • BBC News
  • Reuters

These tend to be the most visited Web sites when it comes to online news. They also can be accessed via cable television, as well as many smart phone applications.

It can help to access the news sites of the area where your research is focused. This will help you gain a better understanding of the people, the mood, and the modern times.

You can visit these Web sites any time of the day or night to see updates. It also is simple to add these pages to your bookmarks on your search engine to be able to return to the sites often.

Other ways to use news Web sites include:

  • to see what is being talked about in the world.
  • to understand what the media finds important.
  • to see what people feel is newsworthy.
  • to begin to formulate ideas for a paper or a project.
  • to learn more about your local area.
Newspaper Web Sites

You may also want to keep a bookmark list of online newspapers that can help you sort through current events. Some popular online news sites include:

  • The New York Times
  • San Francisco Gate
  • The Washington Post
  • The Wall Street Journal online

Finding out if your local area has a newspaper online will allow you to create context in your research, plus find out if your research needs to go in a certain direction.

For example, if you need to research whether your company should add more jobs, and you see in the paper that the local economy is suffering, then your research can focus on how to add more jobs because there is a need.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Basic Research Skills course?

Google Alerts

If you have access to Google and a Gmail account, it is a good idea to set up Google alerts when doing research in a particular field. This allows you to get e-mail lists of Web sites that are associated with your given topic.

For example, you can sign up to receive alerts about "dieting." Each day, or as often as you like, you can receive a list of new Web sites that talk about dieting. You might want to create a number of alerts, focused on different keywords.

You can turn these alerts on and off, whenever you like.

The Google alerts function allows you to create an ongoing list of sources to use, without having to do the searching on your own.

  • Sign up for a Gmail account.
  • Sign into your Gmail account.
  • Look under "more" in the top menu and find "Google Alerts."
  • Sign up for as many alerts as you like.

Review the e-mails you receive each day as your research comes to your mailbox.

RSS Feeds

Another possible way to keep up to date with the latest information in your field or in a particular research topic is to sign up for RSS feeds. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication." This is a way that you can sign up to get updates on a certain topic or from a certain source.

All you need to do is to find the RSS button on the site, click it, and then add the script to your Reader.

Readers to use include:

  • Google Reader, Personal Computer or Macintosh;
  • FeedDemon for PC;
  • NewzCrawler for PC;
  • Shrook for Mac;
  • Newsfire for Mac.

Like the alerts, you will go to your reader software, read the updated links that are related to topics you are researching, and then use the information as a brainstorming method or as a way to direct your research.

These readers are free, simple to use, and they can be set up and adjusted as often as you need.

Journals, Papers, and More
When researching academic topics, it can help to look at journals, papers, and other academic publications. Though you might have some trouble interpreting them, they are valuable tools for your research and they will add to the validity of the paper or the presentation you need to give.

Benefits of Scholarly Journals

Your research should include scholarly journals whenever possible. These journals:

  • are written by educated authors. The authors who are published in journals are from universities and colleges. They are able to write on a more sophisticated level and have had more academic training than others.
  • have been peer reviewed. Before an article can be included in a journal, it needs to be peer reviewed and reviewed by the journal. This process is not simple, and any concerns will be sent back to the paper authors. Authors have taken this feedback and incorporated it into a new draft.
  • have taken years to create. Sometimes the studies in the journals have been taking place over many years. The authors have carefully designed a study or reviewed other studies to ensure their ideas and conclusions have merit.
  • are based on cutting edge ideas. Journals like to produce and promote ideas that are new, even revolutionary. These journals then become inspiration for new authors, and they sometimes lead to immediate real-world use.
  • are using cutting edge technology. Many journal articles are testing cutting edge machines and other pieces of technology, things that you may not be able to use on your own, but the experience of others can inform your research.
  • show complicated ideas in action. When you need to support a complicated idea in your research, journals are often the first place to turn. They offer ways to look at difficult ideas from a scientific and logical standpoint, pointing out problems with ideas as well as solutions.

Accessing Journals, Papers, Etc.

You can find academic journals and papers in a variety of ways:

  • Be a journal subscriber. You can become a subscriber of a journal if you have certain qualifications. Most often, to subscribe to a medical journal, for example, you need to be a medical student or affiliated with a hospital. These subscriptions can be costly.
  • Go to academic libraries. If you can gain access to an academic library, you might be able to access its journal inventory. Most local colleges will offer you a community library card, though you may need to be a student of some sort. Check with the library to see what you need to do.
  • Request documents online. Some journals will allow you to request certain articles and studies from their Web sites. You will have to pay for some of these copies to be sent or e-mailed to you.
  • Use basic online searches. Of course, your basic search engine is going to be the best starting point for any of your journal usage. When you need to look up a certain topic, look up the keyword as well as "journal" to see what you can find.
  • Use tools like Google Scholar. Some search engines also offer tools that will direct you only to results that are based on scholarly research.

If you cannot find a certain article, you might be able to search online for people who are talking about the article, which can then lead you to a copy of the article or journal study.

How to Use Journals

You can use journals for research in a number of ways. Here is how to find specific journal articles:
  • Know the title. If you know the title of the study, this will help you find the article quickly.
  • Know the authors. The more of the authors you know from the journal article, the more you will be able to narrow search results.
  • Know the journal name. If you look up the journal you need, this can direct you to a search portal that can then allow you to find what you need or similar articles.
  • Know the date of publication. Finding out the date of publication also limits your search.
Once you have this information, it will be easier to find the actual article. After you have the article available, you can use it to do the following:
  • Support your research. If a journal article supports something you want to show in your research, this will bolster the strength of your writing.
  • Show a different angle to the journal findings. When you read a journal article, you can be inspired to take a new direction with the same sort of study.
  • Show past work in the same topic. In order to establish context for your research, journal articles will help show there is a history that is present in your field.
With academic journals, you might encounter some issues in trying to interpret them easily. Here are some ways you can make the most of the articles you find and choose the ones that you need:
  • Read the abstracts. Each article or journal should have abstracts that are a part of the publication. This allows you to have a basic idea of what the paper includes and how it might be related to your research needs.
  • Read the conclusions. You also will want to look for the conclusions of the journal article and paper. This will allow you to see whether the thesis was supported or not.
  • Go to the school Web site. When the article has been created by students at a school, they might post their project online and describe it in simpler terms there.
  • Contact the authors. If you cannot understand what the authors were trying to say, it might help to contact the authors and ask questions for clarity.

The more that you can find academic articles, the stronger your research results will be. Even if you find that no one else is studying what you want to study, this too is valuable information.