Team Building Skills
When working on virtual teams, you will be keeping connected using many forms of technology. Team work may require you to research on the Internet. Therefore, you must be comfortable using the Internet and various search engines. There are many things that you should consider while working on the Internet. Below are listed a few:
- Anyone can put something on a web page. Unlike a library where publications are selected, the Internet is open to self-publishers. As the researcher, you will need to analyze the web sites for their reliability and appropriateness.
- Think about your topic and the type of information you want to find. What companies, organizations, research centers, colleges, and libraries might have the information you want? Not everything is on the web. Think about other resources such as professional journals, magazines, and personal interviews.
- Be familiar with the strengths of various web sites. Do not just use one web site for your research. There are many databases, and the large search engines are not usually the best way to research technical information.
- Use directory searches as well as search engines. Looking through the subjects listed in a directory search may help you organize and locate the best information out there.
- Know how to use Advanced Search features and Boolean logic. While the big search engines have advanced search features that make selecting and eliminating keywords easier, some of the more specialized search engines may not have that feature. Understanding the logic behind your search will be a huge advantage for you.
- Learn how to narrow or expand your search. If your search gives you a very long list of results, you should be more specific in the words you choose and the logic you are using. On the other hand, if you have a very short list, use more general wording or alternative spellings.
- Remember that even mega-search engines do not index every site on the web. You will definitely want to use several search engines to find the information you desire. Some sites may be picked up by different search engines. Never rely on one search engine for your research project.
- Research the links you find on web pages. Do not forget to follow the threads in the research others have completed. You may find a web site that is biased or has some of the information you want, and by following the resources used, you may very well find the information you are seeking.
- Look for journals and magazines that are also published on the web. There are many "non web" resources that can also be found on the Internet. For that matter, there are even complete books on the web. If you find print material on the web, you will want to cite both the web location and the print information.
Finding Information on the Internet
There are several ways you can go about finding your information on the Internet:
- Go directly to a web site. If you already know a good web site and its URL, go directly to the site and start there.
- Look through a subject directory. This will give you an idea of the topic organization. Related topics may help you determine keywords you can use in a search. Open Directory and the old Yahoo structures would be good places to start. Remember that many libraries also have subject directories.
- For scholarly research, try the INFOMINE directory by the University of California.
- Use a search engine. Keep in mind the different search engines and their abilities. While you may be more comfortable with certain search engines, experiment with others that may be relevant to your search.
- Browse. Browsing does not lead you directly to your desired information, but it can be a very interesting journey. There is one web site, The University Libraries at the University of Albany, which allows you to search for catalogs, databases, journals, subject pages, and reference books.
- Join a discussion group. This would be particularly helpful if you want to ask experts questions or get feedback from others. Discussion groups can keep you current with the topics you are interested in.
Keeping Track of Web Sites
When you start researching on the Internet, you may find that you start following links, and then at some point you cannot get back to some information you wanted. Here are some tips for keeping track of where you have been:
- Bookmark sites or add them to a Favorites folder. Make sure that you give the pages your own name because you may not remember the default title. You do not want to save every page this way because the folder will be too full to easily navigate.
- Use a browser plug-in. Zotero has a free plug-in for both Firefox and Chrome.
- Print important web pages. This can get a little expensive, but at least you will have the information.
- Create a word processed document with the web links. This is a good way to store your information when you want to add text reminders of the important things at the web site.
- Store your web link information online. There are many sites that allow you to maintain word processed files online. Google Drive, box.net, and Zoho are just a few.
Evaluating Internet Resources
Whenever you find information online that you want to use to support your research, it is important to evaluate the site. Here are some questions to ask as you are evaluating web sites:
- What type of web site it is? There are news pages, informational pages, marketing pages, advocacy pages, and personal pages. If you can distinguish the type of web site, you may be able to determine if the site has a biased perspective.
- Who is the author or producer? It is important that you know the source of the information. Look for credentials or some indication that the writer is an expert on the subject.
- What can you learn from the URL? Government sponsored web pages generally end in GOV, military ends in MIL, educational institutions end with EDU, organizations end in ORG, and commercially-based web sites often end in COM. If there is a ~NAME in the URL that usually means that it is a personal web site.
- Where can you write for more information? If there is nothing listed on the web page where you can request information, then it is suspicious. Do not forget to look at any "mail to" links on the web site and evaluate that address.
- Are any bibliographic references given? If the article claims to be based on scholarly research, then a bibliographic reference of resources should be listed or linked to the web site. If this information is present, try to find the original sources and use them instead of another person's opinion.
- How current is the information? When doing any research, you will want to make sure that you have the most current information. Every good web page should list the date the page was updated. Also check to make sure the information is current.
- Are the links active? Click on the links to see what information has been linked to the web page. You will also need to evaluate those links as to whether they are relevant to your research. Inactive links mean the information is old.
There is also a checklist that may be helpful.
Next section: Using Search Engines
Lead, Educate, Serve Society
Last updated 10/4/14 (va)