The Internet is an endless sea of reliable and unreliable sources. Wading through it is not only overwhelming and time-consuming, but also one of the hardest stages of writing articles and blogs.
What I’ve done to remedy the anxiety of this step is to create a simple process with strategies on how to use information without plagiarizing and a go-to list of resources to avoid endless research.
When I’m inspired by an idea or a question pops in my head, the first thing I do is Wikipedia it. Yes, I know the credibility of this website is debatable, but when you want a superficial overview on a certain company, person, situation, place, etc. Wikipedia can be a useful resource. Similar websites include Reference, Encyclopedia, and Ask. The overview allows me to create a list of the things I will need to further look into. Likewise, if I have a broad topic, an overview allows me to choose the aspect I want to hone in on.
Next, I pull together the necessary research materials so I can whip out my writing in one sitting. The type of topic and article dictates where I go for research. For anything historic, scholastic, or academic, I use official dot-edu or dot-org websites that I know are official and trusted (e.g. loc.org). For modern topics and digital trends, I find the trendsetters and authorities in the industry and research articles they have written. More specifically I find influencers on Twitter, Google, and Google+. I believe quantity of followers can represent quality, but it’s never a bad idea to do a bit of background research on an author before trusting their work by their followers. With technical issues, features, and questions, I seek out forums on trusted platforms (e.g. LinkedIn). I use Google quite a bit. However, the art of Googling reliable sources is an acquired skill. To learn how to use Google for your research, read this.
The third important step in this research process is citing your article’s well-deserved sources. Creating hyperlinks to your source directly in a blog entry (oh yeah, like this one) is acceptable citation. You can also create endnotes1. These citation methods are popular for online articles and blogging. I figure if the NY Times can use hyperlinks as citing, then we’re okay. Lastly, don’t forget quotations if you’re copy-pasting. Even paraphrasing deserves a shout-out to the original source.
With these three steps, I am able to use my simple process strategically in order to eliminate the stress of the overwhelming amount of resources available on the Internet. How do you avoid plagiarizing and find the best information? Do you have a process?
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