Preparing a research paper was previously a task most of the students were afraid of as the job required in depth knowledge about the topic via a thorough study of the literature but what was even more difficult was to find easy to understand yet relevant literature regarding that topic. Nowadays, Internet has made this job really easy, even though still the worth of reference materials obtained from published “hard-copy” is more than information gathered through a source like Internet, but it is the amazing capability and charisma of Internet that has forced these academic journals to issue their online volumes as well, thus making the job even simpler. But even then, data mining from Internet sources can be very challenging at times because of the random distribution of information on the Internet
The difference between a term paper and a research paper needs to be understood properly. Where a term paper asks for assimilation of the literature available regarding any subject, its review and evaluation in one’s own words; a research paper needs generation of new data or hypotheses. The first and most basic step is to choose any topic on which research can be conducted. This topic need not be very broad in scope so that the process of drawing conclusions from the research does not depend on too many variables and constraints. This paper needs to convey something which is still not general knowledge that people already knows. The restrictions imposed by textbooks are generally difficult too follow in research but an adequate adherence to the basic fabric of research methodology needs to be kept all time.
As this paper is a research based project therefore too liberal use of pre-existing knowledge is not advisable, but in some instances scholarly sources can be quoted with proper citations.
The method of research over internet has been made difficult by the volume of information available on the Internet and random storage of information has made information retrieval different from a library research using a card catalog. A search engine works as an internet catalog card and by providing keywords a user can locate information, similar to searching the book name or author name in library catalog. The accumulation of data on most educational websites has forced them to include searchable indexes on their websites as well, thus saving time by allowing one to search every occurrence of any specific word or phrase at that site.
A lack of a standard for information quality is one reason why instructors still advice against too much reliance on Internet. But services like Wikipedia which allow its users to add, delete or edit the contents, thus propagating a picture which may get at times out of sync with the reality has played a huge role in this premonition. The peer review system used by printed journals is gaining popularity on Internet as well. In peer-reviews an article or piece of information is sent to external reviewers mostly experts in that area before printing, and after their approval of manuscript and establishing a general consensus over the standard and quality of work it got published. Most of the information obtained through Internet is not peer-reviewed. This gives a probability of unintentional inclusion of information which is plagiarized, has flaws of facts and/or interpretation, some sort of prejudice in opinions or do not have the deep and thorough analytical testing of the peer-reviewed literature. Similarly, temporal nature of information available on Internet asks for date of access of information with the citation.
But Internet offers many more benefits to research than its few drawbacks (which will be hopefully taken care of in due course of time). The first of all abundance of information without moving away from the chair one may receive in front of one’s eyes is really amazing. Couple it with the solutions of problems like selection of research topic, the currency of data and the information about the most distinguished workers in any field of study and Internet becomes the most powerful tool of research in modern times.
One of the drawbacks of Internet is that it can lure the user to perform misdeeds like cutting and pasting a sentence or paragraph from someone else’s work. This cheating from another source is termed as plagiarism, which is an intellectual dishonesty which in the professional world is treated just like stealing, lying and cheating. Plagiarism from Internet is very easy but catching plagiarized work sentence to sentence source to source has become even easier and instructors can, by using specially developed software, can catch it, therefore, it should be avoided.