COLL148 Week 3 Research Techniques Lecture Notes

17. April 2016 School 0

Research Techniques

As you begin to think about research for your Leadership/Role Model paper, one tool at your disposal with which you are probably already familiar is the Internet. We will look into how to use that resource effectively this week. The Internet is not a library, so while you can find a great deal of information on the Internet, not all of this information has been verified or validated. You will have to do that yourself before you can use it with confidence. The DeVry University Library differs in that it is basically a catalog of verified and validated information. We will look at how to use the library in next week’s reading assignment and lecture.

Anyone with a little time can post something on the Internet; it is a self-publishing means of distributing information. This significantly raises the question of the validity and credibility not only of the information on websites but of the websites themselves. This is not to say that you can’t find good, reliable information on the Internet; what it does mean is that you have to do a lot of work validating and verifying the site itself before you can use information from it. As critical thinkers, we want to question everything we read at the outset, before we use any of it in our research.

Here are five criteria to use in validating and verifying Internet websites. We will be using the criteria to do just that this week. The five criteria are authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage. Before we use any information from a website, we need to ensure that the site meets all five criteria.

○ When we look at authority, we want to know who wrote the information on the website. We will want to be able to check what makes the author an authority, too; that is, what credentials he or she has that makes him or her reliable. We also want to be careful not to assume that a person is an authority simply because of a title. Just because someone has the title of doctor or professor, for example, doesn’t make him or her an expert in all subjects.
○ When we look at accuracy on a website, we want to be able to see if there are links right on the website that we can follow in order to verify that the information presented is accurate.
○ The third criteria to validate and verify an Internet website is objectivity. To address this area, we would want to find out why this site or page on the site was created. What is the purpose of the website? Very many websites have been created to influence you about something, so very often they only present information that supports their positions and intentionally leave out information that might contradict their views. We would also want to find out who is paying for this website. Knowing this will help us understand if the site is truly objective or if those running it have a particular agenda. If you use a website that presents only one side of the story and you want to be able to use that resource, then also find websites that present the other side or sides of the story. This will help you balance the information you find.
○ Currency is the next criteria we want to use to validate and verify an Internet website. Some information changes so quickly that we have to be sure that we have the latest information for our research papers. Something that once was considered true may have been debunked and is no longer considered true at all, even though at one time it was an accepted fact! For example, many respected thinkers once thought the world was flat! We can find information from very reliable sources that state this is fact when we know this is no longer true at all. The number of planets in our solar system has also changed. When the author of a website was in elementary school, there may have been nine planets in our solar system; now only eight of the large objects out there are considered planets. Other changes occur even more rapidly.
○ The final criteria to use to validate and verify information on Internet websites is coverage. We need to look at a website very closely to see what topics are covered and to what depth, as well as whether both sides of an issue are covered. If there is only one view presented, that should sound an alarm that this website may not be a good one to use in our research.

We all have seen information on websites and in e-mails that is completely bogus and not based on facts at all. Some of it is blatantly obvious, but some isn’t, so it will be up to us to use our critical thinking skills to help us differentiate what is good information we can use and what isn’t. While we won’t become experts in doing this, by developing better research habits and skills and by following the five criteria, we can surely be better!

One thing we want to keep in mind when using the Internet for our research is how we get this information, or hits. The information we get is based on what we tell the search engine to look for–whichever search engine we decide to use, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, for example–and then using Boolean logic to find the information on the Internet. We can get better results if we use discriminators, like putting what we want to search for in quotation marks or putting words like OR, NOT, or AND in our search phrases. For example, if we want to research information on, let’s say, personal finance, we would get fewer hits, whereas we would get more related information if we put personal finance in quotation marks. The same thing goes for using AND, OR, and NOT or similar discriminators. If we put “personal AND finance” as our search words, only websites that pertain to both personal and finance would be provided.

Identifying what Plagiarism Is and How to Avoid It

Plagiarism is a violation of the Academic Integrity code of this institution and will not be tolerated. The plagiarism policy applies to every aspect of DVU coursework, including threaded discussions, exams, quizzes, essays, assignments, PowerPoint presentations, and so forth. If you copy from, rely on, or paraphrase from your text or from any other source, you must include in-text citations. For any source other than your text, you must also include the proper reference material, including the full URL and date accessed if the source is the Web.

Setting and Achieving Goals

In order to achieve success with your studying, you need to have a plan or goals. To complete your Learning Plan (assigned next week), you will need to choose four areas in which you will improve your performance. Using the results of the various assessments you have taken, and based on your own experience, you will develop five goals. A well-known acronym for setting both long- and short-term goals is SMART. That is, a goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Framed. SMART goals are similar to action steps.

Goals can be set up using the following pattern:
○ Identify the specific goal.
○ List the action steps that must be taken to complete it successfully.
○ Estimate the time needed for each step. (Note: The time-frame needs to be specific; in fact, setting a specific date to reach your goal works best).
○ Create a plan to follow in order to get to that goal.

You have set goals before without even realizing it, in many cases. When you plan a vacation, for example, it’s a lot easier to plan when you know where you are going first! Armed with that information, you can develop a plan on how to be at the right place at the right time, and at the right cost as well. You should take a similar approach to your education and career goals. Many students sign up for a college degree program based on things they might like to study, and while this is okay, wouldn’t it be important to know you are working on a degree that will be in demand by employers when you finish your program? Of course it would.

Rather than set a long-term goal as completing your degree, wouldn’t it make more sense to first use some critical thinking skills by researching exactly what you would like to do? Then you can research what companies are looking for and make a plan to get there. For example, you will want to find out exactly what specific degrees companies are looking for and what skills and experiences they desire as well. Remember, you will be competing against others for that same job, and the hiring manager at a company will look at all the applications and resumes and select the person who is not only the best qualified for the open position but who will be the best fit as well. Once you know what potential employers are looking for in a job applicant, you can now do a self-analysis to see which of the requirements you already have and which ones you don’t have yet. You can then make a list of all the things you need to do to be sure you are the one hired when you get ready to apply. This means your long-term goal would be your “dream job,” and your short-term goals would be all the things you need to do to land that job!

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