Research

How to Use the Internet as a Reliable Research Tool

Online Research

(Photo Credit: Exponential Programs)

Postmodern college students have a research tool not available to students decades ago: the Internet. While the Internet is a boundless source of useful information, it is also littered with less than reliable sources. Another issue many college students face is figuring out how to do in-depth, college-level research, according to Project Information Literacy (PIL). PIL’s online survey of nearly 2,000 college and high school students found that Google was the research tool of choice for nearly 90% of students. While Google can be a beneficial tool, it shouldn’t be your only option for research at the college level. This piece offers some tips about how to use the Internet in more useful ways to conduct research.

Explore Databases

Your high school librarian might have shown you how to access a research database from a workstation in the library.  Once you get to college, the number of online databases available to you increases exponentially.  PIL’s study found that college students today have 19 times more databases available to them than their high school counterparts.  Locate higher education institutions near you along with online resources associated with those institutions.

It’s important to know what database to employ to obtain information that’s actually relevant to your project.  Temple University’s Research Guide recommends that instructors suggest specific databases to use, noting that a 2010 PIL survey revealed that only about 14% of college handouts recommend specific databases.  If your assignment fails to specify, it never hurts to ask your instructor.

Review Individual Sites

The Internet grows larger every minute.  Not only is more information available online every minute, college students can get home internet access for less money than in the past.  A 2012 infographic from Domo divulges that nearly 600 new websites pop up online every minute.  As a student doing research for a credible academic paper, it’s your job to sift through websites to find the ones that provide information that’s accurate.

Luckily, myriad websites give clues as to whether or not you can trust them to offer reliable information. One way to judge the reliability of a website is to look at its domain or URL.  If you’re tracking down health statistics from a government agency, for example, a site that ends in .gov, such as CDC.gov or FDA.gov is going to provide you with accurate information from the actual Centers for Disease Control or Food and Drug Administration.  A website such as CDC.com or FDA.com isn’t necessarily connected to the federal agencies.

You can also discover more about the person who penned the article on the site.  Typically, a credible author will be an expert in his or her field, such as a doctor or a professor.  The article should ideally cite sources and direct you to those sources so that you can verify the information or learn more.

Connect with Your School’s Library

Although the Internet is full of information, there are other resources.  Print books and journals are still excellent sources when writing a paper or working on a project.  You don’t have to trudge to your campus library to track down the books you’re looking for, though.

You can locate books that might be relevant using your school library’s online card catalog.  Some schools let you put the books on hold or check them out online, and then pick them up the next time you’re on campus.  You can also download e-books from the digital collections at some campus libraries, meaning you don’t even have to pick up the books in person.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Perceptions of Black Male Student-Athletes on Predominantly White Campuses

Black Athlete

(Photo Credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

In “‘Athleticated’ Versus Educated: A Qualitative Investigation of Campus Perceptions, Recruiting and African American Male Student-Athletes,” C. Keith Harrison (2008) conducted a study to explore students’ narratives about the college recruitment of high-profile Black male high school student-athletes.  Harrison had participants to watch a scene about college athletic recruiting from The Program (1994).  The research questions posed in this study are as follows: (1) Are the recruiting visit perceptions by students about student-athletes based on stereotypes and athlete biases?  (2) How will students respond to images that represent the intercollegiate athletic ritual(s) to sign major recruits in revenue sports (i.e. football and/or basketball)?  (3)  What type of discussion and dialogue about academics and athletics does the qualitative data (narratives) reveal?

A mixed-method research design was used.  202 students at a highly selective Midwestern university participated in this study.  73.6% of the participants are White, 13.4% Asian, and 9% Black, 3% Hispanic, and 1% identified as “Other.”  Visual elicitation was employed to stimulate a discourse between the interviewer and the interviewees.  A survey questionnaire was used.  Hierarchical content analysis and inductive analysis were employed to analyze open-ended responses to questions posed on the survey questionnaire given to each participant after viewing only one scene from The Program.  Participants’ responses emerge from viewing this one scene.

The findings of the study indicated that both Black and White students identified Black male student-athletes in the film to be more athletic or “athleticated” than educated.  Both Black and White students viewed the Black male student-athletes on the film as sex objects.  For Black participants, two dominant themes were found: “athleticated” and “sex object.”  For White participants, four major themes were determined: “athleticated,” “sex object,” “media stereotypes,” and “unrealistic depiction.”  The most prominent themes for both Blacks and Whites were “athleticated” and “sex object.”

Harrison (2008) found important gaps in the professional literature about their being limited empirical investigations of the recruiting inventory of the student-athlete and how the general student body views the student-athlete’s recruitment process.  Since this study extended knowledge about the two aforementioned gaps in the literature, it helps to give some understanding of them.

Harrison (2008) does not offer the reader an understanding of whether this was each participant’s first time viewing the film, which is crucial to understanding potential influences on their responses to questions posed.  One significant weakness of the study is the scholar did not allow the participants to view the entire film, which impacts their ability to properly contextualize the scene the study engaged.  The study does not offer specific details about the responses Hispanic, Asian, and “Other” participants divulged.

Future research needs to resolve how the views of the recruitment of Black male student-athletes of the general student population impact their educational experiences at predominantly white higher education institutions.  Additionally, future research should be devoted to understanding how the perceptions of the recruitment of Black male student-athletes impact their interactions with faculty at predominantly white higher education institutions.  Finally, future research needs to replicate this study and allow students to watch the entire film and then ask them questions about the particular scene used by this study.

Reference

Harrison, C.K. (2008). “Athleticated” versus educated: A qualitative investigation of campus perceptions, recruiting and African American male student-athletes. Challenge: A Journal of Research on African American Men, 14(1), 39-60.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Google is Making the Library a Thing of the Past

As a college instructor, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to see the waning of love for libraries. While there was once a time when students (and people in general) had a thirst and zeal for obtaining information in libraries, Google is becoming more and more the chief source for those seeking information. Google can be a valuable source of finding a significant amount of information—there’s no question about that. I am just afraid that this heavy reliance on Google is making us lose some of our hunger for being researchers.

I am sure that we are much more efficient retrievers of information because of the ease of obtaining information Google provides for us. I love to use Google too. I do not, however, over rely on Google when conducting academic research. I still use libraries as primary sources of academic scholarship, and have found electronic databases to be my invaluable friends. The library is a place where I can get away and just enjoy my passion for books and learning with other members of the learning community.

When conducting scholarly research, I would encourage people to use Google as a tool, but it should not be your primary source of locating material to include in your papers. I can always tell when my students have fundamentally relied on Google and other internet sites to aid them in the development of their papers, because the papers always seem to have so few quality references. Google can give you numerous references, but Google is not a better judge of the quality of the references than the assistance you can receive in the library with finding help to assess the quality of your references. The library, especially a college or university library, is going to have less frivolous stuff than you can find on Google. This means you will have less time devoted to resolving whether you have junk or quality material.

While I would never encourage you to do a paper at the last minute, I would have to say that Google can be quite useful when you face this type of situation. You may not have time to go to a library or a library may not be open. In this type of situation, please use Google to help you to find the material you need to complete your paper. For those completing academic papers, “Google Scholar” can be employed to help you to find peer-reviewed publications to include in your work.

Please do not interpret this article as being in opposition to Google for looking for information and for use when composing academic papers. I am just saying that you should not lose faith in the value of a library when seeking information and when composing your papers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison