Challenge 1: A Lack of Experience
One of the biggest challenges that modern students face is the fact that many come to college with relatively little research experience, which is why so many students turn to professional academic services to get research papers written for making up for their lack of skills. High schools don't always prepare students for the world of online research, and this can lead students to be a bit adrift when they reach college and find that they have a much-increased amount of work to do. High schools often focus on basic research skills—using a library, identifying information from books, separating fact from opinion. That can make it difficult for students to advanced to the higher level of research needed for college essays.
There are two different challenges students face once they've gone online to conduct research, one revolving around searching the open web with a search engine and the other revolving around using an online library and its databases. Let's look at each in turn.Challenge 2: Finding Credible Sources on the Open Web
First, many students attempt to search the open web for information, typically by using a search engine like Google or Bing. That's fine as far as it goes, but online resources don't give you the information you need in many cases because they are limited in what they provide. A search engine isn't likely to direct you to scholarly research, both because search engines tend to push readers toward popular sources such as news reports and because many of the scholarly sources that are available on a topic are not available on the open web or are hidden behind paywalls. As a result, it can be a crapshoot whether you find the information that you need.
Even if you find that information while searching on the open web, it can be difficult to tell whether a source is legitimate and credible. In the old days, schools would teach that .org or .edu addresses were more credible than .com addresses, but today those old rules don't always apply. With a ballooning number of top-level domains and website that can mimic credible sources for nefarious purposes such as propaganda, online sources are much more difficult to use now than in the past.
Challenge 3: Using Your School's Online Library
This is one reason that professors prefer students to use their school's online library to find sources. This brings us to the second challenge. Many students don't know how to search a library or find the information they need. Libraries provide access to many resources that can't be found on the open web, including information from academic journals and books that are otherwise hidden behind paywalls. But many libraries have search engines that are hard to use and require more skill to work with than a basic Google search.
When using a library, it's often necessary to go into the advanced settings in order to find search restrictions that will limit the source to "peer reviewed" sources or "scholarly sources." This will limit the results to academic research from scholarly journals and academic books. This is the gold standard for research and the sources that will serve you best in writing most types of essays. Peer-reviewed sources have been reviewed by academic experts who evaluated the quality of the source before it was published. This means that the source is much more likely to be accurate and credible than a page found on the open web through a Google search.
Once you understand the difference between popular and scholarly sources and have developed the ability to evaluate which sources on the web are credible and which are not, you will be in a much stronger position to identify the sources that you need to achieve the best research results for your next essay.
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