For many students (and pretty much everyone else) the first step of research these days often means looking to Google for an answer. In fact, the term ‘googling it’ has become synonymous with searching on the internet. While Google is often highly effective in finding popular sites, news or images, there are a number of popular alternatives that students should also be familiar with if they are to be effective searchers. Considering there are increasing concerns about Google’s privacy policies it is important to evaluate search engines just as we evaluate the websites to which they link.
Of course, many of you may find that Google is still the quickest way to search the web. You might like to check out the Google Search Education site which provides some great tips and activities to help you make your searches more effective.
A critical part of effective research is referencing. There are a number of bibliography and referencing tools that make life easier. For a comprehensive, fully featured tool that keeps track of your research, saves pdf files and generates complex bibliographies, we recommend Zotero. It can take a while to get used to Zotero, but it is an incredibly powerful research assistant. However, it might be a tool that you file away in your “explore after the PLN is over’ box, due to the complexity of the program. We do have a guide to getting started with Zotero in our help wiki, so you might have a read of this after the PLN is over.
A much simpler bibliography generator is Bibme. It’s a simple tool for students to use but the site only includes a few referencing styles and doesn’t include the Harvard system in its options. However, it does automatically add books based on ISBN, and also guides students to fill in the necessary details when referencing more difficult sources like websites, magazine articles, films and more.