This is not a “HOW-TO” piece as in “How to do internet research” – although I maybe ought to mention that I wish I had had (*slight pause for wondering about the grammar*) Google Scholar back in my university days … what I did have back then was the advice: “Even if you do use (*whisper*) Wikipedia for your research – you better not quote them as a source!!” But I digress, so let’s start this one a bit differently:
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Twenty years ago, research was a time-consuming and complex matter. Research meant having to spend lengthy periods of time in libraries and archives.
The internet has revolutionized the information era, and all sorts of facts and opinions are nowadays only a few clicks away – dozens or hundreds or thousands of links, provided by Google & Co., and within only split seconds. Research has therefore become much faster – but the selection of information is still not that easy.
Much information from many sources
Publishing a text on the internet has become increasingly simple, this being the age of social media, blogging and self-publishing. In addition, the average internet user deals with various daily e-mails of private as well as of a business nature.
In short: Never before have we been confronted with such a flood of information.
That is why it has become of special importance to carefully consider the origin of the particular information one is looking for. Has the information been published by a private person, a corporation or a government? What is the aim, what is the motivation behind a particular publication? How competent is the source? Are we being presented with hard facts, speculation or merely opinions?
Evaluating the information
It is not always easy to answer these questions. First glances can be misleading, especially since imprints (detailed information about the publisher) are not obligatory in every country. It can therefore be helpful to collect information from several different sources – even if (or especially when) a text does not correspond with the content of other sites. Taking different points of view into consideration and comparing differing pieces of information is necessary to achieve a balanced idea, to see the “big picture”.
Therefore, access to information is easy as never before – but it still requires the same amount of consideration as always – or maybe even more.