Research Skills – 2023

"research skills"

Brush Up on Your Research Skills in the Informational Age

I am sure I do not have to tell you we are hot and heavy in the informational age. AI is booming and may not always be accurate. That means research skills have never been more important. Whether you’re a student, an academic, a professional, or simply a curious individual, finding, evaluating, and utilizing information is a process. And the ability to find reliable information is a valuable asset. With information overload and digital abundance, let’s take a journey through the evolution of research skills. From the old days of encyclopedias and more index cards than I can count to the modern-day online resources. Then, you may just want to know how to brush up on your research skills in the informational age and for the future.

The Old Days of Researching in Encyclopedias

Once upon a time, research primarily involved dusty libraries and the meticulous flipping of pages in massively heavy encyclopedias. These hardback books were a wealth of knowledge, a go-to source for anyone seeking information on a wide range of topics. Encyclopedias were alphabetized and carefully researched, providing a snapshot of the world’s understanding one subject or another.

However, there were limitations (although I do not think my mother knew that!). Information was static, updated infrequently, and the depth of coverage could be limited. You often had to rely on cross-referencing with other books to find specific details. The research was a labor-intensive task that required patience, perseverance, and, yes, index cards. 🙂

A set of encyclopedias neetly on a shelf. The ligrary where study was complete in the days before the internet.

Embracing the Informational Age

No doubt, the internet revolutionized the way we research. With the World Wide Web, masses and masses of information have become accessible at our fingertips literally). Google became synonymous with search – and encyclopedias made way for online versions like Wikipedia. And, you guessed it, the scope of research expanded exponentially. Now those encyclopedias of old are being used as tear-out pages for artists, booster seats at the dinner table, decorative placeholders on bookshelves, and more!

Researching in the digital age offers numerous advantages. Online, we find information that is dynamic, constantly updated, and available 24/7. However, with this convenience came a new challenge: discerning the reliability of online sources.

Fun Fact: I call the internet the “innerweb” just to annoy my hubby!

Brush Up on Your Research Skills

As information flooded the internet, so did misinformation and biased content. Thus, the ability to evaluate sources became paramount. Researchers must develop a discerning eye to determine credible information from unreliable sources. And that is a skill worth brushing up on in almost any phase of life.

How to hone your research skills:

1 | Vary Your Sources

Relying solely on one source can lead to misinformation, opinion pieces or limited perspectives. Look at a variety of reputable sources to gain a comprehensive understanding of your subject matter.

2 | Check Credibility

Only some things online are trustworthy.

Look for peer-reviewed articles, websites with authority, and publications from recognized institutions. Avoid sources with very few reviews, obvious biases, confusing language, or questionable credibility.

3 | Stay Current

Again, information, whether on the internet or in the labs, evolves rapidly. Keep up with of the latest developments in your industry by subscribing to newsletters, following experts on social media, listening to trustworthy podcasts, and regularly checking reputable authorities on your chosen research topic.

4 | Master Search Techniques

Google is more than just a search bar, and it is not even the only one out there. Take a look at sources on other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Pinterest and take that information in comparison with the things you find on Google. Oh, and never consult fewer than 3 sources on a subject. That way, you have a well-rounded view of the topic.

5 | Embrace Lifelong Learning

Research skills are not static, and they do not die easily. Curiosity remains with us forever as one of our most human traits. Fortunately, the digital age of information demands continuous learning and adaptation to stay “with it.” Stay curious and open to new research methodologies and tools, and really enjoy the chase of the informational prize.

Funny mug shot of a pug that says "I chewed the internet cable."

The Future of Research Skills

As we look to the future, good writing and research skills will continue to be valuable. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics will revolutionize the way we gather and interpret information. So, researchers will need to adapt to these changes and go in fully to learn the skill sets and power of emerging technologies.

It is true the journey from encyclopedias to the digital age has transformed the way we research and gather information. While the old days had their charm, and that sweet, sweet smell of an open book, the opportunities presented by the internet are boundless.

To excel in any field, understanding what you are looking for and what is trending requires access to information and the ability to discern the reliable from the fake. Thankfully, research skills remain an integral part of successful learning.

So I say, embrace the digital age, hone your skills, and keep researching—because knowledge is power, and the “innerweb” and the quest for knowledge is timeless.

P.S. Have fun while you are at it!