Optimizing internet research for term papers

When students have to write extensive term papers or even their BA thesis, they use different sources for the literature.

The most obvious one is the physical library. But what about internet research?

In the last two terms, I have noticed that when the students search the internet on their topic they often tell me that they did not find enough information. And when I do the search for them I end up emailing about 20 links to them. This made me realize that searching the internet is a skill in itself and can be optimized to get the best results from it.

Whether you are looking for books, academic papers, essays or news articles for a proper academic paper, here are the basic steps to get the maximum results:

  1. Jot down the title of your paper and think of any keywords that are part of your topic making a long list.
  2. Then expand this list by using other words that are related to your keywords, descriptive words even opposites.
  3. When entering these words in a search engine, make sure to try them out on their own and also enter them in different combinations, even if it doesn’t exactly soud like your original theme.                                                                                                           Here is an example to illustrate the vast amount of words you can search for: Lets say the paper is on “The sustainability of fashion design” you can search with the keywords: green marketing, dark side of fashion, third world production, fashion ethics, Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, sweatshops, criticizm on the fashion industry, ethical fashion, clean clothes, zero-waste fashion, close the loop, fashion life cycle and many others.
  4. Some of the results you get might not be exactly what you need. But do open all the links and skim through them anyways. There might be a useful section or mention of authors which might have written on this topic. You can then look up the literary work of these authors.
  5. The same goes for looking up terms on Wikipedia: It is not an academic source, but scroll down and you will see references at the bottom. Here is what you are looking for: Referenced authors on Wiki are credible sources which you can then look up.
  6. Remember to determine if your search is global and/or local. Are you only interested on topics of one particular country? Or is it something that is present world-wide? Do you search in mybe anther region or even another language?
  7. Use all sorts of different data bases, including online book stores, libraries, search engines, academic sites, academic journals and speciality sites that relate to your topic such as organizations and associations.
  8. And finally, keep calm and write your term paper!

Have you had any experience with internet research for academic papers? What were your experiences and do you have any other suggestions?

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