Top 5 Research Tips For University Students

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Afshin Rohani is a web and technology writer for

As a new term starts you may find yourself being initiated into a new type of learning environment. For many this can be a daunting time, so here's my top 5 tips to make sure you exploit all the web has to offer to help aid your studies.

'Between'- not working and working, is the quasi-productive state of being 'online', where fact finding meets social snooping. Finding the sweet spot in this often dialectical relationship means taking the time to refine your search habits and sharpening your virtual tools.

During my years as a student and my time working with new media I've collected some great research tools as well as techniques that will optimise your web experience, so here's my top 5 for university students:

(1) Look for scholarly information with Google Scholar

One of the most convenient and fruitful ways to source a journal article is to focus your search using Google Scholar. To avoid being flooded with everything the Internet has to offer this tailored search will scan academic websites only so you can easily find the correct citation or original article if it is available for free. Try adding '.pdf' to the suffix of your search query to locate documents directly.

(2) Harness the power of RSS feeds

Since its inception, the web has tried to organise itself while it expands exponentially. Some attempts have failed but one tried and tested tool is RSS. Before following people and brands was popular, subscribing to a website via RSS was an easy way to keep up to date and it's still the easiest by a long shot. Simply locate the orange and white button on any news or content heavy website and copy that link into an rss reader of your choice (I prefer Google Reader). Once you've got all your favourite sites linked, you'll have all the information you need in one place.

(3) Make your workspace ergonomic

Spending a large part of your day viewing an electronic screen is not pleasing to the human form. As we can't escape laptops, tablets or smart phones, it is beneficial for both your mind and body to make your workspace work around you. Practical steps such as regularly giving yourself screen breaks and ensuring your chair has arm rests will help reduce strain on your eyes and upper body.

(4) Let Social Networks work on your behalf

Nowadays we use popular and niche social networks like they are pure information portals. Although they offer valuable insights into topical and trending topics it is very easy to get distracted in their spaces and get lost amongst convoluted content. As with the other tips, make these networks do the hard work on your behalf. One of my favourite sites for this very purpose is Twitterfall. It will create a live feed of multiple keywords which is very handy if you are writing about breaking news or researching a current topic of interest.

(5) Write essays on the cloud

Besides the fact that traditional desktop publishing suites like Microsoft Office will cost you lots of money, any type of work which is done offline can be easily lost and normally has limited access. Moving to cloud computing for your studies is not only a free alternative but a great way to collaborate in real-time with your peers. Most services like Google Drive and Evernote are also accessible on mobile and tablet devices so you can constantly reference or amend your work.

So now that you've improved your online habits you're well and truly on your way to being a master of the Internet. I wish you success in your studies *does Gangnam Style dance in excitement!*

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Image: ChrissieChrissie via flickr

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