Going beyond Google for faster and web searching

Distance Learning Guide

Student Survival Guide

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Research will be a major part of my university courses. It will be important for me to know how to effectively search for material that will be appropriate and accurate — not some blogger’s ideas. The Internet, for good and bad, offers millions of responses to a request for information. What to do? The first step is contacting the reference department at WIU and tapping into the resources available through the library. There are many electronic databases that can be downloaded off campus. The librarians can also make other suggestions, such as only refer to peer-reviewed academic articles. This will also limit the concern with unreliable sources.

However, any in-depth study program involves an integration of Internet and in-library inquiry during research. In her article, Rita Vine, like many other researchers, warns about the use of search engines such as Google. Instead she says, “Start with smart sources.” Librarians advise beginning with a site put up by a reputable organization, like an academic or public institute. For example, the National Institutes of Health-sponsored medlineplus.gov gives links to recent news along with overviews and clinical test data from various U.S. health agencies.

Naturally, I cannot completely stay away from the search engines. Investor’s Business Daily’s article on conducting research provides other tips on how to widen the use of the standard search approaches. It suggests using more search engines. Researchers find more, better and different information faster when they use a variety of search tools. Although search engines overlap in coverage, not all have similar content. Also, use high quality, filtered directories for resource discovery. For example, the “Librarians’ Index to the Internet” (www.lii.org),is an excellent site of over 10,000 librarian-selected links.

The article also notes, if it is not a search engine, do not search it like one. If the directory permits browsing, try to browse — it will take extra clicks, but the results will be worth it. Further, be wary of sites with many ads. There is often pay-for-placement. When searching, add qualifier words like “resources,” “links” or “directory” to bring lists to the top of the results. Use the advanced features for selected searches to limit results to pages from domains ending in.gov (U.S. government) or.edu (U.S. colleges and universities) for source reliability.

2) Getting into the habit of citing references.

It is easy to take notes and forget to put down the source, or find a website, grab the information and not write the address and other vital information. This is unacceptable with research papers. It is also illegal to plagiarize something written by someone else. Further, Western Illinois University’s “Student Academic Integrity Policy” stipulates that “Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty constitute a serious violation of University conduct regulations. Students who engage in dishonesty in any form shall be charged with academic dishonesty.” Plagiarism occurs whenever:

1) One quotes another person’s actual words or replicates all or part of another’s product without acknowledgment. This includes all information gleaned from any source, including the Internet; 2) one uses another person’s ideas, opinions, work, data, or theories, even if they are completely paraphrased in one’s own words without acknowledgment; 3) one uses facts, statistics, or other illustrative materials without acknowledgment; 4) one fails to acknowledge with a citation any close and/or extended paraphrasing of another and 5) one fails to use quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it is a few words, a sentence, or a paragraph.

The University also provides information I can use on how to cite resources, add bibliographies and the like.

3) Studying how to study best http://images.google.com/images?q=tbn:CntW_JIE1jIJ:www.choosehypnosis.com/study_habits.jpg

Research papers are only part of the work that I will be doing during my university years. I will also be reading, gathering information from coursework/lectures, and taking exams. There will be a great deal of work, and I will need to know how to study what is needed in a short time period. Studying is different for distance learning for a number of reasons (Schuemer, 1993):

Many distance-education students are older, work and have families. They must coordinate the different areas of their lives.

Distant students have a variety of reasons for taking courses.

The distant learner is usually isolated. The motivational factors arising from the contact or competition with other students is absent.

Distant students and their teachers often have little in common in terms of background and day-to-day experiences and it takes longer for student-teacher rapport to develop.

Technology is typically the conduit for information and communication flow. Until the teacher and students become comfortable with the technical delivery system, communication will be inhibited.

As a result, it will be necessary for me to use study habits that are more applicable to distant learning. The SQ3R reading method developed by Robinson (1970), for example, could be a helpful approach. It consists of five steps of learning: Survey the chapter, question what you are surveying, when you begin to read, recite after you read a section and review: an ongoing process. Of course, this is only one of many different approaches and I have to find the one that is best suited to the way I study. Western Illinois University’s Department of Academic Services could also be helpful if I require additional support.

4) Time is of the essence.

Because my life is involved with so many other activities in addition to distance learning, I will have to be methodical and make every minute of my time spent online and doing the coursework count to its maximum. Time management is difficult, especially when I am trying to do more than I possibly can in a day and night. Setting priorities is a very important aspect. I cannot lose sight of any of the other important aspects of my life, such as friends, family and work, because of my increased academic responsibilities.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN a and BE COURSES (? I could not find).

Again, the University offers tips that will help with my time management skills. For example, the WIU “Study Habits” website page for online students located at http://www.wiu.edu/SES/BOT/orientation/studyhabits.shtml. offers this check list:

Begin studying the first day

Get organized. Set deadlines for completion of assignments. Follow the deadlines.

Establish a schedule of specific times for studying. Follow the schedule.

Train yourself to think and plan ahead. If anticipated events are likely to disrupt your study schedule, adjust your study times prior to the event – it’s better to work ahead than to let yourself fall behind.

Communicate with your instructor. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to clarify course information. Contact the instructor immediately if you find yourself struggling with a course.

Participate in all opportunities for class discussions

If possible form or join a study/support group

5) Never forget the end goals

It is also very easy to get so involved with the day-to-day stressors that the overall goals in one’s life are overlooked. I will need to continually reassess my use of time and priorities to make sure that they align with my personal goals. I am sure that I will become very frustrated at times because I will not be able to do everything I want to. Other people in my life will also be impacted, so I have to constantly keep them in mind as well.

I will need to develop a long- and short-term planning statement. It will also be helpful to keep a journal of my goal-oriented activities. One of the reasons for study problems such as procrastination, poor concentration and little motivation is lack of clear goals. Without aims that are clearly defined and written down, I will not meet my personal objectives or do well in my coursework. Setting realistic expectations is most important. I cannot expect to be a god and accomplish everything, nor set my goals so low that I do not feel I have accomplished anything of worth. Lastly, I have to remember to enjoy my life. When things become too much of a burden and I no longer enjoy the challenges, it is time to rethink where I am at.


Investor’s Business Daily (2004). Need to do research? go further than Google.

October 4, A04

Robinson, F.P. (1970) Effective study (4th ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

Schuemer, R. (1993). Some psychological aspects of distance education. Hagen, Germany: Institute for Research into Distance Education.

Vine, R. (2004). Going beyond Google for faster and smarter web searching. Teacher Librarian, 32(1), 19-23

Western Illinois University. Student Academic Integrity Policy. Website Retrieved 4, July, http://www.wiu.edu/VPAS/handbook/policies/acintegrity.shtml

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