How to Conduct
Copyright 2023, Faulkner Information Services. All
Publication Date: 2301
Publication Type: TUTORIAL
The Internet enables people to search electronic reservoirs worldwide for
information – in some cases, raw data – on virtually any topic, ranging
from fixing a flat tire to interpreting the latest photos from the James
Webb Space Telescope. More than a mere convenience, the “democratization
of research” along with access to technology has rendered the ability to
conduct Internet research a highly-valuable, if not essential, skill –
often a key differentiator in determining individual or organizational
success. To that end, many have found that a simple, repeatable,
rules-based Internet research process is the best instrument for
discovering the data and information relevant to a particular question,
problem, or area of interest. This report is intended to help Internet
researchers create our own preferred process.
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Merriam-Webster defines “research” as “the collecting of information
about a particular subject.”
|Data Curation Tutorial|
The process of researching can be simple, such as learning when and where
a new movie is being shown, or complex, such as gathering evidence in
support of a scientific hypothesis. Researchers can be high school and
college students; teachers and other academic professionals; scientists
and engineers; businesspeople; librarians; government officials; and,
especially in the Internet era, everyday individuals.
The Internet is a modern-day miracle, enabling people to search
electronic reservoirs worldwide for information – in some cases, raw data
– on virtually any topic, ranging from fixing a flat tire to interpreting
the latest photos from the James Webb Space Telescope.
More than a mere convenience, the “democratization of research” made
possible by the establishment of the Internet along with access to
technology – has rendered the ability to conduct Internet research a
highly-valuable, if not essential, skill – often a key differentiator in
determining individual or organizational success.
To that end, many have found that a simple, repeatable, rules-based
Internet research process is the best instrument for discovering the data
and information relevant to a particular question, problem, or area of
interest. This report is intended to help Internet researchers – that’s
all of us – create our own preferred process.
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Unlike an encyclopedia or other standard reference, the Internet is an
unregulated and uncurated collection of databases containing information
that is both timely and untimely, accurate and inaccurate.
The chief mission of an Internet researcher is to gather information that
Relevant to a particular
Current or the latest
Credible by virtue of being
produced by a recognized authority.
Accurate or information based
on facts or widely-supported theories or beliefs.
The Internet researcher is responsible for:
Crafting Internet search queries that are both
precise and, in some cases, nuanced.
Submitting such queries to an Internet search
Examining the search results for relevant,
current, credible, and accurate results.
Applying those results to the subject of the
The process is inherently iterative since the results of an Internet
search can suggest additional lines of inquiry that, when properly
pursued, can produce higher levels of understanding.
Selecting Search Engines
The principal enabling technology for conducting Internet research is the
search engine. Prominent search engines include:
- Google, a brand so popular that Internet searching is
often referred to as “googling”
- Bing, a search engine owned and operated by Microsoft
- DuckDuckGo, a more recent entrant in the search
engine market that emphasizes searchers’ privacy, neither tracking nor
storing user information
- Yahoo, a legacy search engine now powered by Bing
According to Statista, as of July 2022, online search engine Bing
accounted for nearly nine percent of the global search market, while
market leader Google had a share of around 83 percent. Meanwhile, Yahoo’s
market share was 2.55 percent. Although Google dominates the search engine
market, a dedicated Internet researcher would be wise to try out several
search engines, selecting the one (or perhaps two) delivering the best
results for a given application.
Composing Keyword Strings
A search engine operates by scanning the universe of available Web pages
for specific words or phrases. In the lexicon of Internet search, these
are keywords or keyword phrases. The ability of Internet researchers to
satisfy their research objectives is largely determined by their ability
to select the right keywords or phrases.
As analyst George Mathews explains, “Think about the topic you are
researching and come up with different ways of expressing the same idea in
less than four or five words. For example, if you are trying to find out
everything you can about NSA spying, NSA spying is an obvious keyword
phrase you could list down to start with. However, you should not stop at
“Expand your keywords list to find more pertinent information on the
topic. For example, you could expand your keywords to include phrases like
Impact of NSA spying US or NSA spying Europe and so on, depending on the
information you seek. Just take some time to clearly define your primary
keywords on paper or in your head.”1
The operation of search engines can be both simple and complex. They
offer an intuitive user interface that enables casual users to conduct
casual searches. They also support advanced functions useful for
performing more complicated research.
Serious Internet researchers should invest a portion of their research
time in studying the functions, features, and conventions of their
preferred search engines. In the case of Google, for example, this inquiry
can begin by clicking the “How Search works” icon at the bottom of the
Google Search page, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Google Search Page
Performing Time-Based Searches
It’s important to remember that much of the information on the Internet
is old, even obsolete. As a general rule, researchers should narrow their
search requests to recently posted pages. Google, for example, permits
users to restrict their search results to information accumulated in the
most recent hour, 24 hours, week, month, or even year.
Google even permits users to specify a custom date range.
Depending on the volatility of the information sought, try starting with
one year (for relatively-static information) and one month (for
Filtering Search Results
In an environment littered with misinformation, disinformation,
propaganda, and outright lies, the ability to screen search results for
relevant, current, credible, and accurate information sources is
.gov, .edu, and .org Sites
Analyst Mathews recommends that researchers “angle towards pages with
URLs ending with .gov, .edu and .org for hard research as these tend to be
more authoritative, non-profit-making sources. Websites ending in .com are
commercial in nature and some may not be entirely upfront with their
information or motives.”2
For URLs ending with .com, look for well-established companies within the
industry or sector of interest. For a cybersecurity-related search, for
example, information returned by firms like McAfee and Symantec can be
considered high quality.
In terms of traditional news sources, look for results from
long-standing, respected publications, such as the:
- New York Times
- Washington Post
- Wall Street Journal
- USA Today
- Time Magazine
- Fortune Magazine
- Associated Press
- BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
- ABC, CBS, and NBC News
Be wary of Wikipedia and other “crowd-sourced” encyclopedias. As analyst
Jowi Morales reminds us, “most academic professors would say that
Wikipedia isn’t 100 percent reliable, so you shouldn’t use it as your
primary source. That’s because the site is open source – meaning anyone
could change its contents as long as they make an account. While Wikipedia
does have developed systems to ensure they have accurate information, it
still isn’t accepted by most institutions.” With that warning in mind,
“You can read Wikipedia articles as a jumping-off point for your
Social Media Sites
Try to avoid social media sites, except for those that operate as
official informational outlets of trusted commercial and government
Citing Internet Sources
Whether researching a high school term paper, a college dissertation, or
a peer-reviewed scientific article, researchers have an ethical and moral
obligation to credit their primary information sources.
Citing Web pages is not sufficient since pages can be modified or even
disappear at the discretion of the page owners. When gathering a specific
piece of Internet information, remember to collect:
- The title of the piece
- The names of the authors or contributors
- Their titles and professional affiliations (as appropriate), such as
Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Princeton University
- The source of the piece
- The copyright details, if different from the source
- The date (and time, as appropriate) of publication
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While the discovery phase of Internet research – locating pertinent
Web-based articles, reports, and other source material – starts online, a
second search phase designed to mine that material for new insights is
Once a researcher has identified a promising Web page, the researcher
should “cut and paste” all or part of the page into a permanent searchable
file; remember, Web pages are NOT permanent. Two broadly available options
are Microsoft Word (Word format) or BlueGriffon (HTML format), although
any text editor will do. Ideally, each Web page should occupy its own
research file, with each research filename containing (for ready
- The name or title of the research effort
- The source of the Web page
- The keyword or keyword phrase through which the page was discovered
A sample “name.source.keyword” filename might be
Once a set of research files has been established, the researcher can
then “drill down” into the files (using the Word utility, for example) to
find new information, new perspectives, and new understandings.
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Like virtually all digital processes, Internet research is being
influenced by artificial intelligence (AI).
For the consumer or casual researcher, digital assistants, like Siri and
Alexa, conduct simple Internet research, like identifying the sixteenth
president of the United States (it was Lincoln, by the way).
Offering a more advanced option, OpenAI has introduced ChatGPT, a
long-form question-answering AI tool.5
As a measure of its early-stage sophistication, this writer asked
ChatGPT, “How do I conduct Internet research?” Here was the program’s
Conducting internet research can be a useful
way to gather information on a specific topic or to answer a question.
Here are some steps you can follow to conduct internet research
1. Identify your research question or topic:
Determine what you want to learn or find out through your research. This
will help you focus your search and make it more efficient.
2. Choose reliable sources: Look for sources
that are credible and authoritative. This can include Websites from
government agencies, educational institutions, and reputable news
organizations. Avoid sources that are biased or unreliable.
3. Use search engines and databases: Use
search engines like Google or specialized databases like JSTOR to find
information on your topic. Use keywords and phrases related to your topic
to narrow your search results.
4. Evaluate the information you find: Once you
have found some sources, take the time to read and evaluate them. Consider
the author’s credentials, the date of publication, and the source’s bias
or perspective. Use this information to determine the reliability and
relevance of the information you have found.
5. Take notes and organize your research: As
you conduct your research, take notes on the information you find and
organize it in a way that makes sense to you. This can help you keep track
of your research and make it easier to write about or reference later.
6. Cite your sources: Properly citing your
sources is important to give credit to the original authors and to
demonstrate the credibility of your research. Use a citation style that is
appropriate for your discipline or the purpose of your research.
Internet researchers should closely follow AI developments, as
AI-generated analyses may inform the direction of their research, and
improve its overall scope and quality.
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Open AI: https://www.openai.com/
Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/
US National Institute of Standards and Technology: https://www.nist.gov/
1 George Mathews. “8 Tips for Effective Internet Research.”
The Web Writer Spotlight. May 24, 2022.
3 Jowi Morales. “6 Internet Research Tips to Help You Find
What You Need.” www.makeuseof.com. February 22, 2022.
5 Roger Montti. “What Is ChatGPT and How Can You Use It?”
Search Engine Journal. December 26, 2022.
About the Author
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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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