Welcome to Study Hall! The Internet can be a great resource as long as you know how to use it. Here you will find tips for effective web research to help you get the most out of the Internet.


Cyber Defender & Databank Supervisor

Because of her unquenchable thirst for knowledge, Maya started out as a librarian. While she loved her job, she wanted to do more to help protect people.

Since Cyber Villains such as Ms. Information and Elvirus can corrupt websites and the information on them, Maya teaches people to protect themselves by using caution when visiting websites and avoiding sites that are not trustworthy.

Favorite Quote:

Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime
- Chinese Proverb

Favorite Food:

Anything chocolate


Browsing bookstores, baking

October 28, 2010

Research Tip: Using the Web

There is a TON of information out there on the Internet. Unfortunately, not all of it is legitimate or accurate. So how do you separate the worthwhile from the worthless? Well, here are a few helpful hints that I use when doing online research.

Firstly, and most importantly, make sure the source of the information is trustworthy. If the Website is well-known or is part of a scholastic organization (like a school or a research institute), this makes it more likely that what they’re telling you is true. But be careful! Web sites that the public can edit, such as Yahoo! Answers or Wikipedia, have no control over what users post there. You should also check to see that the author cites their references so you know where the information came from. Sometimes I even find the best resources by going through the list of references on Wikipedia articles!

Secondly, once you found information that seems reliable, the best way to make sure that it is actually true is to find another source that says the same thing! For example, if two trustworthy sources say that Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, you can be reasonably sure that they’re telling the truth.

Just remember, cadets, the more carefully you do your research, the more confident you can be in your argument. More work early means less work later!

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

June 21 2010

Research Tip: Bibliography vs. Works Cited

I thought it was time to blow the dust off this blog topic. Whenever you write a research paper, you will be asked to state exactly where you found your information. This record is called either the Bibliography or the Works Cited page. If all the research you are citing in your paper comes from books, your paper will have a bibliography. This is because the word “bibliography” specifically means “written about books”. If the research comes from several different sources (such as books, documentaries, interviews, etc.), your paper will have a Works Cited page.

It’s just that easy! Or is it? You see, it really depends on what style guidelines you are using to write your paper…

If you are using the Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines, call your reference page “Works Cited” even if all your research came from books. On the other hand, if you’re using the Chicago Manual of Style, you should title your reference page “Bibliography” no matter what sources you cite.

If you’re not sure what to do, ask your teacher or librarian. They are always fantastic resources when you have a question about research.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

August 12 2008

Research Tip: Is it better than information in other media?

While it can be easy to find information on the Web, sometimes it's not the highest quality information available. When researching a topic, you should always check the whole range of media available, including books, newspapers and magazines, interviews, films and videos, and audio recordings.

The Web is best for shallow research on a broad range of recent topics like current news and trends, new discoveries, and people's opinions. You can also easily find a variety of multimedia for your topic; Web sites frequently contain many different types such as images, text, videos, and interactive applications. However, in-depth information on older topics can be much harder to find on the Web and you're probably better off exploring other media like books.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

July 8 2008

Research Tip: Share your resources

If you have found some great resources on the Web for research, be sure to share them with others! Not only will they be grateful for the help, but they may just return the favor and save you some research work as well.

You can even work with a teacher or librarian to set up a list of good Web resources that everyone can use and contribute to.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

June 3 2008

Research Tip: Find an Expert

When you're researching a topic, it can be very helpful to find an expert in that topic and search for anything about them on the Web. If you stumble across a particular name several times while researching your topic, that person may be an expert, and it's a good idea to try and find out more about them or to find anything they may have written about your topic. You can also talk to a teacher or librarian to get the names of a few people to research, and then look them up online to learn more about their work.

But be careful about separating fact from opinion. You can refer to Finding Reliable Sites: Is this Fact or Opinion? for tips on telling the difference. You will also want to make sure that they are a credible source. You can refer to Finding Reliable Sites: Who wrote this? for some help with this.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

May 6 2008

Research Tip: Custom Search Engines

Want to know how to quickly find reliable Web sites, instead of looking through many odd ones? Some search engines, like Google, allow you to create your own custom search engine. To make sure that your search results are reliable, you can set up your custom search engine to search sites that you have already approved, before searching the rest of the Web. This way, you can cut down on all the time it takes to filter through search engine results.

You can tailor your search engine to focus on a specific topic, and you can add more reliable sites as you find them to continue to improve your searches. You can also share your custom search engine and use custom search engines created by other people. Some people even allow you to add more sites to their custom search engines to help them improve their search results. This is a great way to find information about a specific topic without having to do quite as much work finding the best sites. However, be aware that some unreliable sites could still be included in the results.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

April 8 2008

Research Tip: Web Directories

You can use a Web directory when you want to search for Web sites by category. Web directories list links to sites according to what type of site they are and what kind of content is on the site. Sites can usually be listed only in one or two categories. Some examples of categories are Shopping sites, History sites, Science sites, Entertainment sites, and News sites.

Unlike a crawler-based search engine, which automatically includes sites in their list based on their content, most Web directories require someone to submit a description of a Web site for the site to be included in their list. When you search the Directory, it looks for matches in the submitted description rather than in the site's content.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

March 4 2008

Research Tip: Avoid Plagiarism

Plagiarism is when you use someone else's ideas or words without acknowledging them or giving them credit. To learn more about it, visit Officer Ward's post on Plagiarism as a Cyber Crime.

To avoid plagiarism, you must give the author credit whenever you:

  • Refer to someone's idea or theory
  • Use any facts or statistics that are not common knowledge
  • Use images, graphs, or charts created by someone else
  • Quote or paraphrase (changing around a few words or changing the order of the original author's sentences) another person's words or work

To correctly cite your source, you must indicate which part of your work is taken from another's. When your source is a book, you indicate the author of the book and the page number in your citation and include quotation marks if it is a direct quote.

If your source is from the Internet, the same rules apply though the way you cite it may vary depending on which part of the site you are using and what information about the site is available. It's also a good idea to get the permission of the site's owner before using their work.

Learn more about how to correctly cite a Web site at the Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting and Style Guide.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

February 5 2008

Research Tip: Bookmark reliable sites

When you find a site that you think is reliable, add it to your Web browser favorites or bookmarks, so you can find it again easily. You never know when you'll need it again, and oftentimes sites that you have used in the past and know to be reliable are a great place to start when researching a new topic.

You can ask a trusted adult to help you set up bookmarks or favorites on your computer, and you can use bookmarks as shortcuts to some of your favorite Web sites to visit, as well as keeping track of reliable research sites. It also helps to organize your bookmarks into well-labeled folders to keep them from getting confusing.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

January 8 2008

Research Tip: Double-check your information

Just as it is very easy to find information on the Web, it's also very easy for anyone to put information on the Web. Some people really don't do their homework and will put fake or false information on the Web claiming that it is correct. The Cyber Villain Ms. Information is notorious for this!

You should look for sites that include lists of references and source materials, which will explain where the author found the information. And, always double-check the information that you find on the Web against an offline trusted resource to make sure it is reliable. It's also not a bad idea to check up on the references and source materials to make sure they are reliable also. Who knows, you may discover a lot of useful information in those resources, too!

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

December 4 2007

Research Tip: How Search Engines Work

Remember that paper I'm writing about the first three presidents of the United States? If I were going to do research at the library, I'd start by asking the librarian about the first three presidents. She would probably start with trusted resources that she's used before and then ask me some questions in return to better understand what I'm looking for.

However, search engines can't ask you questions to refine your search. They also can't rely on any past experiences to find good resources. It takes a little more planning to get the most out of using a search engine because they can't think about your search the way a person can.

Most search engines are crawler-based, which means that they "crawl" through Web sites looking for keywords. When you use a search engine, you enter in one or more keywords, and it returns a list of sites that it thinks are relevant for your search. It decides which sites to list based on a set of rules, such as how many times your keyword appears on the site or how high it is on the page, but it doesn't check to see how valid the information is. You have to check your search results very carefully to make sure they are useful.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

November 6 2007

Research Tip: Getting Started

Don't know where to get started when doing Web research? The first thing to do is to look at your topic and figure out what you need to know. It helps to write down everything you already know about your topic and what you think you may need to know.

Let's say I'm writing a paper on the first three presidents of the United States and the only thing I know about them is their names: George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. I'd then make a list of what I think I need to know about them for my paper: when they were president, where they were born, and what they did before they were president, just to list a few. Now I can use my list as a starting point for researching facts about each president for my paper.

If you don't know very much about your topic, you can also try an encyclopedia site like Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica, or even talk to a librarian or your teacher about it to learn enough to be able to search intelligently.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

September 14 2007

Research Tip: Internet Searches

Internet searches are about finding the right words. If you just search on "butterflies" you will find a mountain of information and no way of distinguishing what is important to your research.

Instead, combine your keywords to focus your research and use what you learn on one site to target your next search. For example, you could try searching for "butterflies" + "wings" to find out about how butterflies' wings work.

As you learn more information about a subject, you'll be able to uncover the knowledge you are looking for more effectively.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips

August 6 2007

Research Tip: Focus

There is a lot of information out there to be distracted by. The key to any research is to pick your topic and focus on it. A little exploration may lead you to new topics and avenues to research another day. But you must remember to keep to the topic you are researching today.

posted by Maya
topic: Research Tips