Insights
Online Research – BAU Writer Series
June 18, 2013
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by Michael Sean Gallagher in the BAU Writer Series

Conducting your research online is a skill that will reverberate well beyond your time at university. The process of being able to identify relevant information, determine its credibility, and incorporate it as evidence in your own work is a process that will follow you to your employment and throughout your careers. As many if not most of you are enrolled in programs of study directed towards or supporting business, whether marketing, finance, or information systems management, it is critical to know where to find relevant information to support your writing and your work, how to retrieve it, and how to make proper use of it. This post will give you some general ideas how to conduct your search online and subsequent posts will outline how you can use this information in your work.

Much of what you might need for information sits in databases that often charge for their services, some of which Beni American University has access to. To see what you can access simply by being a member of the university, go to  http://beniamerican.org/posts/866. Some of these databases are specific to certain subjects, while others are multidisciplinary in nature. This is one way to begin your research online, by starting with a specific database and working from there. It isn’t the method I recommend, however. First you must see what is available before you begin to determine what you can actually use. A good easy way to broadly see what is available and what has been written about a specific subject, go to Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.co.uk/) and enter your search terms there. If you have an Android smartphone, Scholar Droid is a good application (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.weebly.microbuff.gssearch&hl=en) for searching Google Scholar. So begin your searches in Google Scholar to get a sense of what is available and consider some of these search tips that most databases use to make it easier to search.

  • “Quotation marks” – by putting quotation marks around a particular phrase, you are telling the search engines to retrieve results only with that exact string. So, for example if you search Chinua Achebe without quotation marks, it will attempt to look for two different words, Chinua and Achebe. If you use quotation marks, ie “Chinua Achebe”, it will search only for that exact phrase. Very helpful when searching for full names or phrases (like “vertical integration” or “Keynesian economics”. Otherwise, you will get a lot of results that you don’t need.
  • Cited by – once you find a good article, use the tools that Google Scholar provides, like Cited by. Cited by will list each and every article that cites this article. What this means is that these are other, potentially relevant articles to your research. It saves quite a bit of time. Find the related articles and you will find your research. So in the example below, you can see that this article has been cited by 747 other articles, which means it is an important article that the community uses again and again. You can also click the Related articles link as well to see other articles that Google believes are similar to yours. These two functions are very powerful and save quite a bit of time. Use them whenever possible.

CitedBy

  • PDF from university.edu-some of the search results have PDFs available and these are clearly marked as such in Google Scholar. See the example below. Notice that this particular article is available form Harvard. You can download it and make use of it without being affiliated with Harvard. So look for these when you can’t find what you need from the databases available through Beni American University.

 ResearchPDF

So these three tips are a good place to start. There will be many more tips coming soon to save you time and make your academic work all the better.

Editors Note

This Article can also be seen on Michael Sean Gallagher’s personal blog.