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Search methods employed in collecting information

Working with databases, library catalogs, and internet search engines are the most basic means that I have historically used in work and education environments when searching for information relevant to topics that I am researching. Something that is easily taken for granted is that I have learned this through both practice and instruction, often from mentors and teachers in my life. Generally, much of my writing in the post-bac program at the University of Minnesota has revolved around critiquing and responding to course readings. In this type of response, I might consult text indexes for specific passages on given topics. Also, in more broad research endeavors, I have found that as a university student, the Academic Search Premier database has often been very reliable in helping me find peer-reviewed resources to reference in my writing. The summaries provided in these databases are often quite helpful in determining the relevance, credibility, and utility of such resources as well.

When guiding students in the process of identifying the most useful information there are a few basic criteria that I would emphasize. It might be useful to provide a rubric of such criteria so that students consider all of these issues when performing research.

- Is the data timely? Is it the most up-to-date information available?
- Is the resource credible? Are the authors noticeably biased or affiliated with entities that would typically have a reason to be biased?
- Is the information valid? Does this information definitely relate to your topic, or is it tangential?
- Is the information specific or general? (Sometimes general information can help us begin to frame arguments in a certain way, therefore providing much needed assistance in understanding a topic, but ultimately students should know that they need to base their arguments on specific facts, or quantifiable data.)
- Does the sum of all of your research help you synthesize your argument(s) to specific main points that are both relevant and helpful in persuading your audience of the meaningfulness of your position?

Synthesis of research can be quite tricky for many students, and as educators, it is important that we recognize that learning this skill is a process for young adults. Further, it is often an ongoing process as new technology provides access to other useful and practical means of research (e.g., RSS feeds). Still, as individuals become interested in more specific fields through experience, their knowledge base of relevant, credible sources of data should also increase, making it easier for such specific research to take shape.

In regards to how I will use RSS feeds for my own benefit, I feel that I have already used some of this technology in the creation of an iGoogle homepage. This homepage provides a list of bookmarks to sites that I frequently access, and allows me to get this information from any place with internet access. Also, on this homepage I have links to many different news resources that can help me focus on what news is most interesting to me, as well as helping me recognize what news is most frequently reported by these varied resources. Still, I worry that the ease of setting up RSS feeds has a real potential to create information overload and clutter. I also question the value of spending a great deal of time compiling RSS feeds in a central location if so much information will continue to accumulate over time. I appreciate the easy access to information provided by various internet resources, but I worry about whether too much time will be spent sorting through this information if I buy in to the idea of using RSS feeds to compile new data/research relevant to my own work. Hopefully, I can gain a greater appreciation for what sort of practical uses that RSS technology affords to both educators as well as the more general public.

Comments

I agree with both your discussion of research techniques and your concerns of RSS feeds. I don't have much experience with these feeds, but I would imagine if you selected only a few from websites that you trust. I don't have much else to say on the topic since I agree and don't need to preach to the choir.