Updated Research Tools: Online Rules

Saturday, June 01, 2013
How do you research things lately? Here are some tools I am using.

Google Translate. I am researching a wildlife project in Brazil and I don’t speak Portuguese, so talking with the biologists or reading their reports is impossible. Except, it isn’t. I just cut and paste the email into Google Translate and there’s the letter. This works for webpages, pdf files and anything I cut and paste into the program. It can recognize the language, or I can give it a hint. Is the translation perfect? No. But it’s accurate enough that I understand the main ideas and most of the minor ideas. Sometimes, I have to get a confirmation of a detail, but not often.

EverNote. I use Evernote to organize the information that I find online. And hey, who doesn’t do the research online these days? It’s a program that clips articles and adds them to a folder you designate. It keeps track of where you found the info, but at the same time, it clips the entire text, so you don’t have to go back online to read. It syncs across devices for ease of use.

Google Scholar. OK, back to Google. One of the options for Google is to search scientific articles or journal articles on numerous topics. I like to start here and find scientists to talk with. Once I find an article about a topic, then I google the scientist and find his/her contact info. Usually, they are at a University and you can search the university site to find an email and I usually get an answer within 48 hours. Often, these scientific articles are only available online at a great cost. Some cost $25 or more for a single article. But the scientist usually has a pdf copy and will send it to you free.

This is an image of a barn swallow nest. To research more about barn swallows and their nesting habits, I would start at Google Scholar, find a barns wallow scientist and make contact.

Library Databases. On the other hand, library databases are still an excellent resource for information. These are different from what you’ll find even on Google Scholar and are actually considered more reliable than what you’ll find online. Talk to your friendly local reference librarian and get a list of the databases to which your library subscribes. Our local library has over 100 databases available—an amazingly rich resource. If they can’t access something locally, there are often access points from a state library or other institution. Again, your local reference librarian should know.

Skype. I use Skype to talk to people world wide about topics of interest. Apple’s FaceTime works, too, but it requires both parties to have Apple products. The video calls are amazingly easy and effective. Sometimes, it really is easier to talk in person than to endlessly email to make sure details are correct.


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at CommonCoreStandards.com Follow Darcy on Pinterest.


LuAnn Schindler said...


Evernote is my go-to app!! It's so easy to use.

Skype, on the other hand, is an issue. I've tried it on my computer and my smart phone and it's hit and miss. Not sure if I have a setting wrong or what.

If I'm interviewing someone in person, I like Tape-A-Talk. I have it on my tablet and phone and all I do is push record and it works wonderfully.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Thanks for the ideas and links. I will check them out.

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