A few years ago I interviewed for a job. The interviewer asked me what I would consider my weakness. I answered with the correct answer for me even though it may not have been politically correct. My weakness is that when researching an issue or a project, I sometimes do not know when to stop researching and say I have enough information to move on. While this could mean that I have some decisiveness issues, I know that a majority of the reason I so this is because there is so much information available to me. I am a learner who wants to capture the essence, spirit, and details of a topic so I understand it well enough to tell someone else. Am I like those who sit down and binge watch three seasons of their favorite show? Only for me, I search to page 20 of a Google search. Am I a binge learner?
To answer this, I look to the availability of information. When I was in elementary and high school and needed to research a topic, I went to the library where they had a few books on it, maybe a magazine article, and if I was lucky, a recent newspaper article on it. Sometimes it was difficult to find the five sources the teacher required to be used. Today, all if have to do it Google a word, let alone the entire topic, and I have thousands of sources within in .2456812 seconds.
While this may have allowed me to find the information for my papers faster when I was in K-12, would I have known when to stop looking and use the sources I found on page one of my search? Would page two of the search provide me that one fact that would help me catapult my paper from a B+ to an A? Beyond the reading sources, could I watch a YouTube video and know everything I needed to know? There is a lot of stress in thinking you may have missed a key piece of information somewhere.
I am actually glad that I didn’t have the problem of too many sources because struggling with it as an adult has been challenging enough. Over the years, I developed some basic guidelines I use to help me know “when to say when.”
- Repeated Information: When I have read the same information on a few creditable websites, I feel confident that the facts are accurate.
- Credible: So yes, I mentioned the word credible. For me, I use sites that I have used in the past, sites that have been “deemed” credible by the online community, or cites that have a reputation for producing high quality content. These include major magazines and newspapers, membership associations, and academia.
- Focused Search: Stay on track. It is easy to get distracted when the article you are reading has another interesting article immediately following it or links to other posts on other website. While it might be worthwhile to read this other information, don’t do it in the middle of researching a topic search. Bookmark the link and come back to it later.
- The Right Words: Learn how to search the “right” key words. I am not talking about key words from a SEO or marketing standpoint, but at the same time in some cases I am. With practice, you learn that searching a general term like “business” is not going to get you the detailed information you need on growing your business’ market share. Sometimes the right words come through trial and error. Other times they may be a popular hashtag on Twitter or a word you find reading an article. If you do a lot of research on the topic, keep a list of words that give you the best result.
- Set a Timer: Research shows that when you set a timer you are more focused on accomplishing the task. The timer helps you increase your productivity by allowing you to get through your information faster and without straying from the task.
It is never good to have anything in excess. By understanding these topic searching tips, you will be able to find relevant information faster or find online tools like Smart Brief that curates information from 10,000 sources and summarizes it or from directories like the one we use to match learners with learning experiences. What are some ways that you use to find relevant and credible information on the Internet quickly?
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