How to Develop a More Focused Approach for Research

Research is not always about gathering facts. Sometimes you need to do research in order to formulate an opinion about a topic.To make sure your opinion is as well-informed as possible, it can help to research what others are discussing.

On the Internet, there is a constant flow of information from a variety of resources. Because people are free to speak their minds online, many people are posting their thoughts via magazines and blogs.

In addition, when you need to support your information via images, a good basic research skill to have is where to find the pictures you need.

Internet Magazines

A common way to find information and opinions online is to review Internet-based magazines. Some of these magazines might also be available through your local library, so do not limit yourself to what is available online.

The variety of magazines online can help you to learn more about how different groups feel about your topic and the direction you need to take with your topic.

Some current Internet magazines include:

  • Time
  • Slate
  • National Geographic
  • Poets and Writers
  • People
  • Cosmopolitan

By reading these magazines online, you will be able to review the most recent articles, as well as order older articles as needed. You might also find that you can review the authors who contributed, as well as learn more from the online discussions that continue when articles are posted online.

Here are some ways to use online magazines in your research:

  • Find topic specific magazines. The more focused the magazine is on the topic you want to cover; the more relevant the articles will be for your research. Whenever possible, find a magazine that is in the same market as your research topic.
  • Review pertinent articles. Review magazine articles that are relevant. Avoid other articles or just read their titles.
  • Review online comments. When an article is posted online, the comment board might be opened to readers. Reading what others have to say in response might help you with your research and the direction of your research.
  • Ask questions in comments. If you sign up to comment as well, you may want to ask the author or the other commenters for additional information. This can help you as you begin to create your final research piece.

With online magazines, you can sign up to review the magazine as a whole, or you can review the articles that are posted online. In either case, the more you can read that is written with an opinion in mind, the more clearly you will be able to form your own opinion.

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

Internet Blogs

Many people have decided to begin their own Web logs, or blogs, to help them have a platform from which to begin to talk about their ideas and opinions. These blogs are purely opinion, but often informed by facts.

When you need to research a topic and you want to know what people are already discussing in relation to this topic, the blog world is a good place to go.

Here are some strategies for using blogs for your research:

  • Set up alerts. If you set up Google Alerts or some other form of collecting research, make sure you include blogs. Over time, you will begin to see certain blogs that discuss the topics that interest you.
  • Search by certain phrases. When you have a certain phrase that is attributed to your topic, search in a search engine by that phrase, but add "blog" to the search terms.
  • Find blogs in your research topic. Sometimes, just typing in the main word of your research and "blog" will point you to blogs that are talking about the things you need to research.
  • Review old posts. When looking at a blog, you will want to not only review the new posts, but also look at the old posts by the author to see how her or his opinions on certain topics have changed or have been refined.
  • Look up authors. If there is an author in your research field, check to see if that person has a blog. If so, it might discuss the topic you have to research.
  • Join blog comment conversations. Again, as with online magazines, make sure you join in on the blog comment conversations. This will help you learn from others and find out new opinions about a topic you need to research.

Blogs are not necessarily fact, so this is something you need to keep in mind as you read. But when you need to do research on an author or a person, reading that person's blog can give you an insight into his or her mind and character, and into what questions you might answer in writing about the person.

How to Find Internet Images

Though facts are certainly the most important part of a research goal, you might also need to have images to support those facts. While you might be able to recreate some images or you might be able to describe your idea without having a picture alongside it, it is actually more effective in your research to have a clear image.

There are a number of ways you can find images online, many of which will allow you to have the perfect image for your report needs.

Here are some sources for online images:

  • Shutterstock
  • Fotosearch
  • NYPL Picture Collection
  • Library of Congress
  • iStockphoto

These sites will allow you to browse through pictures to find the right image for your needs.

In order to use these sites effectively, follow these tips:

  • Have a strong keyword in mind. To limit the images you find in your search, make sure you begin with a strong keyword in mind. This will help you find only the pictures associated with what you need in your research.
  • Look at more than one site. Though it is tempting to choose one photo site and only find images there, you will be able to find more photos and more relevant photos with a wider search.
  • Pay for images that suit your report. You cannot simply use images without paying or them or asking the photographer for permission. Make sure you review the guidelines of the site before you use a photo in any way outside of your personal use.
  • Speak with the photographer. Whenever possible, speaking with the graphic artist or photographer can help you learn more about whether you are choosing the right image for your needs.

You can also use other sites to help you find images. Google Images is a feature that is a function of the Google search engine, and other search engines offer this ability as well.

Like searching for certain Web pages, the more keywords you can use when searching for images, the more relevant results you will find.

You can use these images to:

  • support your research information;
  • identify certain animals, people, or places;
  • showcase pieces of artwork;
  • show changes in land.

These images are a helpful part of research papers as well as presentations, especially when concepts you describe may not be familiar to the group.

Researching means not only finding information that can be used by those who hear it, but it also means finding all of the supportive information a person needs in order to fully understand what you are describing and reporting.