Online research is widely used in education by educators, researchers, and students. Yet, not everyone knows how to perform it correctly. Hence, here’s everything you need to know about conducting online research and its process, types, and tools.

What Is Online Research?

Online research is exactly what it sounds like. It is the research you conduct on the Internet for academic purposes (though it can also be used for other purposes such as market research). Most of the time, online research consists of six stages, but some of them can be skipped if they aren’t necessary:

  1. Choose and Define the Topic – Choose the topic you want to research and define exactly what it will be (e.g. narrow it down to be more specific).
  2. Determine the Fields of Study – Decide which places you will be checking during your research (e.g. websites, databases, online journals and media outlets, social media platforms, etc.)
  3. Find Existing Research on the Topic – Check the research on the topic that already exists. See the conclusions that researchers made in the past.
  4. Evaluate the Sources and Information – Assess the sources and information for their quality and objectivity among other things.
  5. Run Additional Research If Necessary – If you see that it is necessary, run additional research on the topic.
  6. Organize Your Research and Make Conclusions – Organize your own research and make the final conclusions.

Online Research Types

There are different types of online research that you can conduct. Of course, some of the most well-known ones are market research and scientific research. What’s more interesting are the methods or strategies you can use for performing your online research.

For instance, there’s social media or content analysis. On the other hand, there are methods that involve focus groups, interviews, or surveys that are now often conducted online. Some researchers also perform web-based experiments or online ethnography.

Online Research Tools

When performing online research, there are different tools and resources you can use that will assist you throughout the entire process. Some tools help with planning while others help with the research itself. Here are examples of some of the most well-known research tools:

  • Google Scholar – An academic search tool to find academic sources and texts, including articles, journals, books, and more.
  • Project Gutenberg – An online library with thousands of free-to-access books.
  • Yale University Research Guides by Subject – A collection of guides on how to perform research in different fields.
  • JSTOR – A digital library with academic journals, books, and primary sources.
  • – A website with peer-reviewed open-access journals, articles, and other academic publications.

How to Conduct Online Research?

So, how do you conduct online research? You can follow the step-by-step plan outlined earlier, but it’s up to you which stages you need and which ones you want to skip. Generally, there are some best practices you should follow to conduct your research successfully:

1- Know What You’re Looking For

First of all, you need to know what you’re looking for. If you don’t know what kind of information and past research you are searching for, it will be very difficult for you to find what you need. Moreover, it will be difficult to select what you will actually use in your research.

Your research starts with the definition of the topic you will be working on. If you define it correctly, it will be easier to decide on any further aspects of your research such as keywords, related topics, and so on.

2- Set SMART Research Goals

Speaking of your decisions at the preparation stage, you should also set SMART research goals. Your goals are meant to guide all your research from start to finish, but they aren’t definitive for the outcome of your research (i.e. the conclusions you arrive at).

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. If your goals satisfy all of these criteria, you can be certain that they will be useful to you throughout the process instead of preventing you from successfully conducting your research.

3- Perform Research Systematically

While performing your research, you need to organize everything you do. This is necessary not only for you to be able to conduct your research efficiently, but also because it will systematize all your actions and ensure consistency in your research.

Being consistent is essential for your research. If you treat some sources differently from others, the outcome of your research could be completely inaccurate. The same can be said about the data you work with. That’s precisely you need to perform your research systematically and follow the rules you set for yourself beforehand.

4- Evaluate Sources and Check Biases

When performing your research, you will need to be careful with the sources and information you choose to work with. Evaluating everything is a must – it is pretty much an aspect of the systematization you need to have in your research.

In addition to evaluating sources and information, you should also check biases, especially your own. Every researcher will have their own biases in one way or another. You can’t get rid of them completely, but you should always be aware of them and take them into account when making decisions or conclusions throughout your research.

5- Delegate Tasks and Be a Team Player

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to delegate some tasks if you have the opportunity to do that. Delegating tasks will help you reduce your workload and complete your research faster and with fewer resources wasted.

If you have a team you can conduct your research with, always aim to be a true team player. Working with a team will maximize your strengths and help you all conduct your research together with success. If you trust your teammates, you can complete your research in no time.

Final Thoughts

All in all, knowing how to conduct online research correctly and effectively will definitely be useful for educators, researchers, and students. Use the tips in this article to help you get started with online research and perform it correctly going forward.

Linda Ritter is an experienced freelance writer and blogger interested in writing about technology, social media, work, travel, lifestyle, and current affairs. She is also keen on playing the guitar and helping homeless animals.
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