Definition of Internet Research

Opportunities for Internet Research as a FreelancerInternet research is the practice of using Internet information, especially free information on the World Wide Web, in research. It is:

  • focused and purposeful (so not recreational browsing),
  • uses internet information or internet-based resources (like internet discussion forums),
  • tends towards the immediate (drawing answers from information you can access without delay)
  • and tends to access information without a purchase price.

Internet research has had a profound impact on the way ideas are formed and knowledge is created. Common applications of Internet research include personal internet research on a particular subject (something mentioned on the news, a health problem, etc.), students doing internet research for academic projects and papers, and journalists and other writers researching stories.

Internet research has strengths and weaknesses. Strengths include speed, immediacy, and a complete disregard for physical distance. The quality of internet research can be superior to other forms of research but usually is not. Weaknesses include unrecognized bias, difficulties in verifying a writer’s credentials (and therefore the accuracy or pertinence of the information obtained) and whether the searcher has sufficient skill to draw meaningful results from the abundance of material typically available


Conducting internet research can prove to be either a gold mine, rich with nuggets of knowledge and information, or a mine field littered with stretched truths and dead ends. Which of these two you experience depends on how you go about your internet research, where and how you look for information, and how you organize it when you find it.

Here are five top tips to make your internet research easier, more accurate and more effective:

Know your sources:

  • It’s easy to find pretty much any information you want on the World Wide Web. The problem is that it’s not always entirely accurate. For this reason it’s good to try and find the same information from multiple sources and, if possible, the original source. You should always ask yourself if the site you are using is the most reliable source of information. Does it cite additional sources? Do the authors write objectively or subjectively? Is it a creditable organisation?
  • Citation of the source information is very important when you are looking for information on wiki-style encyclopedias like Wikipedia. Anybody can edit the information presented on a wiki. While this allows for vast sums of knowledge to be collected more easily, it also leaves a wide margin for error and, in some cases, exploitation. Good Wikipedia articles will always cite sources of information. If there are no citations or the sources seem flaky at best, you should try to verify the data elsewhere.

Use your web browser properly:

  • Web browsers have evolved over time from being able to handle only one page at a time to multi-headed dragons capable of keeping open and managing several pages at the same time in one window. Not only is this a more convenient way of browsing and managing open pages, but it is also easier on your PC. On any modern browser, pressing Ctrl-T will open a new empty tab. If you want to follow a link but keep the original link open, you can right-click and choose “Open link in new tab”. This makes skipping back and forth between pages to compare information a breeze.
  • Modern browsers like Firefox have the ability to install extensions. These are browser add-ons that extend the capabilities of your web browser. These extensions do anything from word counting to finding citations.

Organise your bookmarks:

  • It may sound obvious, but many people don’t take the time to manage their bookmarks. If you are trawling through a lot of data, life becomes a lot easier if you make good use of bookmarks. The simplest method is using your browser’s built-in bookmark manager. Create folders for specific things you are looking for, and store related URLs in them. You can go as far as creating sub-folders. If you really want to organise your bookmarked sites, you should try installing a bookmark add-on in Firefox.
  • Bookmarking services such as provide official Firefox add-ons which let you go as far as managing your bookmarks with tags. Tagging makes finding data easy because you only need to type in the tag “criminal justice bill” to find anything you have tagged with those words. Some bookmark providers will even show results from other users who have tagged the same information. However you go about it, having a well-organised bookmarking system is a must for effective internet research.

Learn to use advanced internet research techniques:

  • Effective Internet research depends a lot on how you search. What keywords are you using? Are your search phrases worded as well as they could be? Are you using advanced search operators? If you haven’t already, you should read this tutorial on advanced web searching with Google. It’s a great start if you want to learn advanced web-searching techniques, and it can help you find the right information much more quickly and accurately.

Follow the web:

  • The oldest methods can sometimes still be the best. Follow the web, surf the wave of information and follow your intuition. Every link you click and page you read will take you closer to your goal. Like a gold prospector of old, sometimes the best discoveries are made using the ingredients of chance, luck and finding the right page at the right time.
  • Sometimes you may stumble onto a page that contains a bit more information than a previous one. Try searching for the names and places you find; stringing information together like this can often result in much better finds. The more you use the web for internet research, the better you will become at it. In time you will find yourself locating the right data with the least effort. It just takes practice.


Einstein once said, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

The same could be said of intelligence. What they don’t tell you is that the “smart” people of the world are, in most cases, just better at researching and learning things than everyone else.

But internet research is a learned skill, not something you’re born with.

And while some people might be predisposed to learn things more easily than others, it’s generally not enough to make a measurable difference.

By learning how to do internet research, you can quickly and fairly easily become knowledgeable about just about anything. And with the Internet, almost anything you could ever want to know is at your fingertips. You just have to learn how to access it.

It’s all there, online, for free. Here are the techniques to be used to find pretty much anything online.

1.  Start with Wikipedia

Whenever you try to learn something new on the Internet, start with Wikipedia. A wealth of information is there, covering practically every subject in an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand format.

The main reason to start with Wikipedia is that it gives a good overview of most topics.

Sure, any given page is bound to have some inaccuracies (as is the case on most user-generated websites), but most of the content is generally reliable. And when the accuracy of certain information is questionable, it’s usually tagged as such.

The key to using Wikipedia as a source, though, is in how you make use of the information. You have to pay attention to a number of things on a Wikipedia page aside from the main content.

First of all, read the introduction to the page. This is where you’ll usually find a quick description of the topic, along with alternate and related terms.

Skim the content to find the parts of the article that you need to know about most. Some articles are short and don’t have a list of contents. Others are several thousand words long. Reading the entire thing is usually unnecessary. Just skip to the sections that are relevant to you.

Next, check the references and related resources. The references are a great place to get in-depth information on your topic. These links often include scholarly journals and articles and other respected sources.

The related sources section includes external links to in-depth information. These websites often include professional associations and organizations devoted to the topic as well as general websites with good topical information.

2.  Move on to Google

Once you’ve built a good foundation through Wikipedia, move on to a Google search (or whatever search engine you prefer).

Having read a bit on Wikipedia, you should know the main terms and keywords associated with the subject you’re researching. Start your general search with these terms.

When researching something, I always open a new window in Firefox. For each link I visit in a Google search, I open a new tab so that I can keep my original internet search results page open.

And if I click on additional links on pages that I have opened, I don’t have to go back through 10 or more pages to return to my original search.

3.  Go Multimedia

Text isn’t the only educational content on the web. Video, podcasts and slideshows are out there to explain pretty much anything you can imagine.

The advantage of so much multimedia content being available is that it caters to people with different learning styles.

Some people learn well by reading. Others learn better by hearing an explanation or seeing a demonstration. And still others learn by doing (which is where step-by-step tutorials—either video, audio or text—come in handy). If you learn best by watching demonstrations, then head on over to YouTube, Odeo, Vimeo or any of the many other video websites and start typing the keywords that you found on Wikipedia.

Make sure, though, whenever you deal with user-generated content to verify the information against reputable sources.

One often-overlooked resource for videos is the archive from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences. TED videos are available for free on the official website and cover (as you might expect) technology, entertainment and design. While many of the videos focus on broad concepts rather than the nitty-gritty, they’re still a great resource to expand your horizon. And the lectures are given by leaders in their fields, so the information is generally reliable.

4.  Check Out Free Educational Resources

A ton of colleges are now putting their course materials online, accessible for free.

MIT offers its entire catalog as open courseware, with lecture notes, resources and syllabi. Other two- and four-year colleges are following suit.

You’ll also find purely web-based open education initiatives that cover subjects you might not find at a traditional college. These free courses offer a ton of organized information on any given subject.

Some colleges offer their lectures in audio and video format. Princeton, for example, offers some of its lectures through iTunes, as does the University of Virginia, Duke, Emory, Yale and Stanford.

5.  Look for Tutorials

Depending on your topic, you may be able to find tutorials. For pretty much any practical skill (and a whole lot of unpractical ones), you can find an online tutorial that teaches you how to do it.

You can find tutorials through search engines (just add “tutorial” or “instructions” to the end of your keyword search). You can also find them on these websites:

Instructables is a general tutorial website that offers step-by-step instructions on projects in categories such as arts, crafts, food, kids, music, outdoors and pets. Every tutorial has photos and/or diagrams to illustrate the process.

eHow offers categorized instructions and tutorials created by users. They include both text and video tutorials on a variety of topics, including law, health, food and drink, electronics and computers.

WikiHow is a user-editable how-to manual that covers a ton of different topics. Because of its wiki format, tutorials and instructions are constantly being improved.

The Tuts+ Network offers tutorials on a variety of tech topics, including Photoshop, web design, Flash and photography. Its tutorials are split into separate blogs based on topic and are written by experts.

Tutorialized offers tech tutorials for a variety of software programs, including Photoshop, GIMP, Flash, Blender and Illustrator.

Good-Tutorials offers up tech-related tutorials, covering CSS, Flash, HTML, Photoshop, PHP and more. Tutorials are categorized and searchable.

6.  Useful Tools Available to You

A ton of tools are out there to make internet research a bit (or a lot) easier.

Some help by organizing your sources, others let you save snippets of pages for later reference, and others do pretty much everything you could ask for from a research app. They make tracking your internet research and organizing it for later reference a much easier process.

Zotero is a Firefox add-on that acts like a internet research assistant. It lets you collect links and whole pages, organize them into folders and tag them. It even generates a “Works cited” list from them. You can jot down notes on anything you save, which makes it much easier to remember why you included it in the first place or to remind yourself later how you ended up using it.

Zotero has a ton of features. It automatically captures citations; it cites from within MS Word and OpenOffice; it accesses your library from anywhere; it searches PDFs and notes instantly; and it lets you create group libraries.

It’s also compatible with thousands of bibliographic styles, so when it comes time to create a “Works cited” list, you don’t have to spend hours reformatting the whole thing. The best part is that Zotero is free and open source, so you can extend and modify it to meet your needs (or find others who have already done the work).

Wired-Marker is a permanent highlighting tool for Firefox. You can highlight sections of a web page to refer to later on. It’s a great app if you want to be able to easily refer to a specific section of a website that you’ve bookmarked. Wired-Marker is itself also a bookmark organizer.

iCyte is a note-taking and bookmarking app that works with Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 and 8. It saves any pages that you highlight or bookmark, so that even if the page changes or is deleted, you still have the original version. You can save sections of a website or the whole thing. You can also invite others to join your projects, share information and access information that others have shared.

Similar Web is a great Firefox extension for finding websites related to the one you’re on. There’s also a web-based version for people who don’t use Firefox. The add-on is particularly useful if you’re on, say, Odeo and want to see other websites that offer podcasts.

Notefish is an online note-taking app that lets you custom-save content from any pages on the web. You can organize and share pages based on a specific subject. The app has many customizable features, including ones that let you annotate and color your notes. The downloadable Firefox add-on helps you use Notefish more efficiently.

Diigo lets you highlight and share pages all over the web. You can add sticky notes to pages for later reference and can access notes from your computer or iPhone. Saved pages can be organized with tags or lists. You can create groups to share resources for a project, and you can even enforce tagging rules among group members to keep things organized. Free and premium accounts are available (educators get a free premium account).

Concierge is a Safari plug-in that replaces the browser’s bookmark management scheme with an easier-to-use bookmark and information management tool. You can bookmark links and save links from email, Address Book cards, and folder and file links from Finder. It puts all of your relevant information in one place.

Information overload is a common problem when researching a new subject online. Great Summary helps combat the problem by summarizing the content of a web page, document or section of text for you. It identifies key topics on a page and presents relevant information without duplicating content.

EagleFiler is an information management app for Mac OS X that lets you archive and search PDF files, word-processing documents, images, web pages, mail and more. It has a three-pane interface similar to that of most email programs. Files are stored in a universal format, so they’re accessible from any application. Files can be encrypted, and you can add notes, tags, labels and meta data to them.

When you download something in Safari, no record is kept of where it came from. This can be a problem if you need to refer to it in a “Works cited” list or just want to know where to get similar content.

DownloadComment adds a note in the file’s Spotlight Comments field with the URL of the original file.

HistoryHound lets you search the content of every web page and RSS feed that you’ve visited recently in Safari, as well as any bookmarked page. It ranks results by relevance. It’s a great way to track down information in resources that you’ve already discovered.

Reference Tracker is an app for Mac OS X that lets you store documents in one place for later reference and citation. It automatically creates a “Works cited” list in Harvard, APA, MLA or Chicago/Turabian format. It has built-in internet search and one-click referencing of web pages (in Safari or Firefox) and email (from Apple Mail).

Selenium is a internet research application for Mac OS X that combines a browser, PDF manager, word processor, bibliography manager and outliner in a single window. Internet research is much simpler because you don’t have to switch back and forth between different applications.

Evernote is an online note-taking application that lets you save just about anything, from notes to images to web pages. And it stores everything online, so you can access your notes from anywhere. There’s even an iPhone app.

Google Notebook is a free online note-taking app that lets you create an unlimited number of notebooks and save notes, web pages and other information in a single place, accessible from anywhere. You can organize your notes by adding tags to them, as you would with Google Bookmarks.

7.  Specialized Websites

Specialized online libraries exist for a ton of different subjects. Anything from language to science to technology to history has its own dedicated resource library somewhere on the Internet.

These collections can speed up your internet research, and they sometimes include only reliable websites. Here are some to get you started.


If you’re looking for information on art, whether museums, individual artists or art movements, Art Cyclopedia is the place to go. It lists 9,200 artists and has 140,000 links from 2,600 different art websites.

IMDb is a database of movies and television programs, dating as far back as film itself. You can search by cast member or title. Individual listings include all previous and upcoming roles. Movie results include cast and production crew, plot synopsis and other production information (often photos).

Medical and Scientific

BioMed Central publishes 200 open-access peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals. And you can search all 200 of them on the website.

History and Humanities

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project collects public domain and copy-permitted historical texts in one place. The collection includes ancient, medieval and modern texts, as well as ones of specific groups, regions and religions.

Digital History offers historical texts and resources from American history. It is run through a partnership with a variety of educational and historical organizations, including the University of Houston, the Chicago Historical Society and the National Park Service. It has resources for researchers and teachers, including multimedia resources.

The Perseus Digital Library is a resource of mostly historical texts from Tufts University. The digital collection includes material from Greek and Roman, Renaissance and 19th-century American history.

Project Gutenberg offers public domain books and written material for free. The collection includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry and is both searchable and browsable. Most of the content dates to the 19th century and earlier.

General and Scholarly

Intute helps individuals find the best websites on which to conduct their internet research. You can search or browse by category. It even offers free training on using the web for internet research and education.

Infomine is a search engine for scholarly resources. The categories, which are browsable, include the following: bio, agricultural and medical sciences; business and economics; cultural diversity; e-journals; government info; maps and GIS; physical sciences, engineering, computer science and math; social sciences and humanities; and visual and performing arts. It also includes general reference and advanced search functionality

The Librarians’ Internet Index is a searchable directory of content from all over the Internet, broken down by category. It includes only reputable websites, making it easier to trust the information you find.

The IPL is another collection of resources from all over the web, broken down by category. The collections are targeted at children, teens, adults and educators. The collection covers art and the humanities, social science, law and government, computers and much more.

Find Articles from BNET lets you search articles from a wide range of consumer and trade magazines and newspapers. The articles are searchable and browsable by category.

The Library of Congress offers a ton of information, including digital collections. Its online collection includes history, performing arts, legislative information and international resources. It’s a particularly good source of government information, because its THOMAS system lets you search the full text of congressional records, bills and more. Great source to do internet research.

You can learn just about anything with the resources and techniques mentioned here. As you research more topics and become accustomed to learning in this manner, learning new things will become easier.

Pretty soon, you’ll be able to gain a working knowledge of practically any subject after just a couple of hours of internet research.


‘Hard internet research‘ describes scientific and objective internet research, where proven facts, figures, statistics, and measurable evidence are absolutely critical. In hard research, the credibility of every resource must be able to withstand intense scrutiny.

‘Soft internet research‘ describes topics that are more subjective, cultural, and opinion-based.  Soft internet research sources will be less scrutinized by the readers.

Combined soft and hard internet research requires the most work, because this hybrid topic broadens your search requirements.  Not only do you need to find hard facts and figures, but you will need to debate against very strong opinions to make your case.  Politics and international economy topics are the biggest examples of hybrid research.

Soft internet research topics are often about collating the opinions of respected online writers.  Many soft internet research authorities are not academics, but rather writers who have practical experience in their field. Soft internet research usually means the following sources:

  1. Blogs, including personal opinion blogs and amateur writer blogs
  2. Forums and discussion sites
  3. Consumer product review sites
  4. Commercial sites that are advertising-driven
  5. Tech and computer sites

Hard internet research topics require hard facts and academically-respected evidence.  An opinion blog will not cut it; you will need to find publications by scholars, experts, and professionals with credentials. The Invisible Web will often be important for hard internet research.  Accordingly, here are possible content areas for your hard internet research topic:

  1. Academic journals
  2. Government publications
  3. Government authorities
  4. Scientific and medical content, sanctioned by known authorites
  5. Non-government websites that are NOT influenced by advertising and obvious sponsorship
  6. Archived news


As an Internet Research Specialist, your typical day involves a commute to your home office, some time surfing the Internet, and a few email exchanges with clients. Sounds simple, but this simple career can command $50 or more an hour and top-level copywriters are eager to have you do this kind of work for them… and eager to pay you for it.


It’s time to start marketing your services. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of internet researcher are you?
  • Do you do market research, informational research or both?
  • Do you charge by the hour or by the project?
  • How much do you charge?
  • Do you specialize in an industry or niche topic? If so, what is it?
  • Why should they hire you? What makes you unique and what benefit do you offer businesses?

How will you tell people about your business? Options include but are not limited to:

  • Social networking
  • Online advertising
  • Press release
  • Search engine optimization
  • Article marketing
  • Flyers, brochures and print ads

A Few Additional Considerations:

You’ll also want to make a few decisions about your work from home life. For example, how many hours will you work each day/week? How will you bill clients, for example do you require a deposit? Will you use PayPal? Will you accept checks? You’ll also want to decide where you’re going to open your business checking/savings account and what type of business entity you’re going to have – LLC, Sole proprietorship. And you’ll need to register your business with the proper local authorities.

Becoming an internet researcher can be an amazing opportunity. What other industry allows you to learn as you earn? What other industry allows you the ability to provide valuable information to people, potentially making a difference in the world, and life the lifestyle you desire.


Working from home and being self-employed is one of the best ways to life the life you want. If you have a knack for research, being an internet researcher may be the ideal entrepreneurial opportunity. It’s also one of the easiest businesses to start. Here’s how:

What You Need to Know

To be successful with internet research you’ll need to know how to maneuver online quickly and effectively. You’ll want to know how to get online and have a solid understanding of search engines and internet research tools. You’ll also want to know a good amount about a particular industry or type of research. Many marketers, for example, have a need to understand their target audience and need market research. If you understand market research, demographics, psychographics and keyword research then you’ll be a valuable asset to this industry.

Create Your Office

To get started as an internet researcher you’ll need a home office. Essentially, you’ll need a computer with a good internet connection. You’ll also need some way to document the hours you work, bill your customers, pay your taxes and store your information. Because research generates quite a volume of content and memory, it’s advised to have some sort of backup. You can purchase an external hard drive or use online storage solutions. Create a system to regularly back up your computer, and organize your information in a manner that makes it quick and easy to access.

Get a Website

Because you’re going to be researching online, it’s important to establish yourself online as well to demonstrate your ease working online. Additionally, many of your clients will find you online. Websites can be created quite easily and for very little expense. You’ll need a domain name that represents your business, not your name, and will help people find you online. You’ll also need a website host.


Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes helps you to learn more about their business and their needs; it increases your customers’ loyalty and supports your customers, helping them to achieve their goals. But starting to think like your customers do does not only bring value to them, it will help you to get and retain loyal customers and bring value to your organization.

1.  Target Your Marketing Activities

  • Through the huge variety of products and the increased focus of the media on them, people are getting more and more discerning and well informed about products. Therefore, you need to target your marketing activities accordingly to get new prospects. In the digital age, there are so many more ways to engage your customers.

2.  Know Your Customers’ Individual Needs

  • Customers research suppliers. You as a sales person need to do the same. Know your customers business and future vision– even before the first contact. Then ask your potential client what they want and show that you care about their needs and that you can align with them in order to deliver them an individualized product. Speak the customer’s language and build a relationship to increase customer satisfaction.

3.  Happy Customers are Loyal Customers

  • Word-of-mouth recommendations are very influential so the best customer is a happy customer! They return again and again, bring their friends and family, and deliver tons of free advertising via word-of-mouth and social media. But having happy customers that bring value to your business is not as easy as it sounds.

Unfortunately, two types of loyal customers exist.

First, there are the active loyalists who do not only stick with your products but also recommend them and willingly practice indirect marketing.

Second, there are the passive loyalists. These customers stick to your product, either out of laziness or habit, but they do not actively recommend your products to others.

Active loyalists are the perfect customers. They will stick with your products and advertise them because they are truly committed to them. Passive loyalists might switch if a competitor offers them a compelling reason to do so. Therefore, you need to expand your base of happy, loyal and active customers so that you can benefit from good word-of-mouth recommendations.

Thinking like your customers demonstrates to your customers that you are a caring and professional supplier and that will help you more than anything else with your sales and marketing efforts. Trust, loyalty and value for your business will be the end results.


  • Internet Research at Read Write Think –
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