The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool for conducting research for any academic paper. In years past academic research was a cumbersome endeavor of poring over books at the local library. While the Internet has not evolved to the point where every book ever written has been transferred to electronic format, but lots of research can be done electronically nonetheless.
For basic research purposes one of the best places to get started is with a simple search engine. Sites like Yahoo and Google can provide links to countless sites just by conducting a rudimentary search.
For example if you were searching for a website containing literary criticism of The Great Gatsby, a simple search on Google for “Great Gatsby criticism” can yield hundreds of links to university websites throughout the world. The key to running a basic search is being concise and relevant. Search engines prioritize search results based on keywords as well as the website authority.
In addition to a search on a basic search engine, there are a number of websites that can be incredibly useful when conducting academic research. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is an enormous database of millions of pieces information. The articles are generated by Wikipedia’s users and updated and edited ceaselessly. Historic events happening around the world are posted on Wikipedia within hours, a considerable advantage over traditional hard cover encyclopedias that become obsolete within a few years of printing. One of the most useful features of Wikipedia is the extensive cross-referencing within individual articles. Thus if you were to run a search on the great fire of Rome, each major element in the article such as “Rome,” “Nero,” and “Fire” is a highlighted link to the article about that topic. This makes Wikipedia fun, convenient and informative to use. The only drawback is that you should always check the accuracy of the information provided by Wikipedia.
The Web also provides traditional paper-writing tools. The Merriam-Webster website contains an extensive online dictionary and thesaurus that is highly interactive and helpful. The Modern Language Association also maintains a website with up-to-date guidelines for bibliographical citations, a vital set of instructions for anyone writing an academic paper. Even if you still need a traditional library to locate a particular book for research, chances are the Internet can be of help. Many major public and private libraries maintain their own electronic catalogues of the books they have in their stacks. You can often reserve and renew a book online using these resources.
In addition to being a tool for entertainment and a forum for modern telecommunication, the Web is primarily a repository of information from around the world. The Internet is a user-friendly resource and so with a little savvy navigation and an adventurous spirit you should be able to find what you are looking for with relative ease. Just be sure that you know whether or not your professor allows Internet sources and if so, be sure that you know how to cite your sources properly in order to avoid plagiarism.