With the help of general websites such as Google and Ask.com, students have become savvy online searchers. But are they finding the research that’s going to help them make the grade?
Elena Heilman, the librarian at Yuba College Library, says that even the most agile Internet searchers might be spending their time gathering research that their instructors find questionable (and often can’t be verified) if they’re using general search engines alone. The problem lies in the fact that these popular services just can’t get at the right content, and should only be one part of a student’s research arsenal. She says that general search engines search what’s free on the Web, but often the relevant, most accurate (and instructor-approved) information resides in what insiders call the “hidden Web” – expensive password-protected databases typically consulted by professional researchers and, more to the point, faculty.
“Free search engines are great for finding quick answers to simple questions, but when the answers really matter – for a research assignment or team project, when it’s going to impact your grades – we recommend using something more authoritative,” says Heilman. “Instructors expect students to use research that’s relevant, reliable information vetted by scholars in the field, and the general Web doesn’t necessarily deliver that. But we do and it’s free to students, just as it’s free to our faculty.”
Heilman says you just need to add the library’s home page http://www.yccd.edu/yuba/library to your “Favorites” list. The library has dozens of educators’ most sought-after Internet resources – information sources that would typically cost thousands – available free to students. Whether your focus is military history, natural or social sciences, languages, mathematics, international relations, or another discipline, the information professionals at your library have selected databases that support your research. Tapping in through the library’s Website means finding information that can help with late-night or 11th-hour research, from anywhere on or off campus. Once on the library home page, click on Library Resources, and then follow the directions to log in. Each of the resources will be listed and will have a brief description of what you can do there.
Heilman says these Internet sources are easy to use, but it may take a visit or two to learn the ropes. “It’s like going to a grocery store if you’ve only shopped at the gas station’s food mart. It might take a few minutes to understand the layout, but once you do, you find the selection and quality knock the socks off the gas station’s convenience,” she says.
“And if you really want some personal service, just visit the ‘live’ librarians on campus,” Heilman invites. “They can provide expert advice on the ins and outs of research that can make all your reports and papers that much better in the future.”