Although not scholarly, the Internet will more than likely be your initial starting point for topic ideas and information. Informal channels of information, such as blogs and alert services, are invaluable resources that help you stay current and informed about your research area, and will provide assistance in directing you to the resources that are appropriate to use in your research. Start by searching for some of the keywords related to your area of interest to begin a very broad scan of the range of topics and information sources. Use keywords such as: trending news or trending topics, recent research, controversial issues, policy debates, and other relevant terms to locate recent news. Remember that using the Internet to find academic information takes a lot of hard work to carefully evaluate the good from the bad.
Remember, not everything you find on the Internet is appropriate to use as a resource in your research. For more guidance on how to evaluate online information, review the Website Evaluation page, or view the Library’s Workshop Video on Website Evaluation.
Blogs can be a valuable source for information on trending issues, current events, recent research, debates and more. Scholars, associations, executives, innovative researchers, every day practitioners, and students are just some of the people who write blogs. Knowing about and reading blogs that are written by experts in the field, or relevant associations, may be an important step in identifying current studies and trends in a subject area.
The websites ResearchBlogging.org and ACI Scholarly Blog Index aggregate blog posts regarding recent peer-reviewed research and publications.
Many online popular and news magazines have blog sections. For example, Psychology Today offers a large index of their blogs with a guide to their blogging experts’ credentials.
Another great resource for searching blogs is Nexis Uni. On the home page, select News and conduct a search using your keyword or phrase. On the search results screen, you may filter Publication Type to Blog, as shown below:
Research news websites are also good sources for the latest information in research. This is a great way to keep up with current research, learn about potentially interesting topics, and understand where the research in a particular field is heading. Headlines for recently published research can be found by searching by the keywords ‘research news’.
Science Daily is a website that provides top headlines in recent research and discoveries in key topic areas like Health and Medicine, Education & Learning, Computers & Mathematics and more. EurekAlert!, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is a service that gathers and posts press releases from research organizations (universities, medical centers, government agencies, publishers).
Popular news sources and magazines can also be useful for finding out about the latest trends or research. News sources, like New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, The Chronicle of Higher Education and more, will regularly report on research of interest to a general audience.
Use the links provided in online articles or the informal in-text citation within the article to locate the original research publication. These resources can be found by conducting an internet search, or using NU Library’s Find a Resource tool to search for specific publications by title.
You may also want to learn more about the differences between Academic and Popular Sources to better understand the use of these resources in your academic research.
Controversial topics and debates are useful for learning about different perspectives on the same issue. For a general internet search, try the keyword phrase “policy debate” to find trending or hot topics in the news or from policy institutes.
The website ProCon.org presents articles on current debates in the news and society. This site is directed toward students and educators.
News feeds or alerts are another extremely useful tool to locate recently published research in a subject area. Subscribing to news feeds helps you stay up-to-date on the research that is being done in a specific field. Many websites offer ways to subscribe to their feeds. Tools like Feedly allow you to keep websites and news sources all in one place. A simple way to organize and streamline information is to use an RSS feed reader. This quick tutorial video explains how to choose an RSS feed reader and subscribe to a number of RSS feeds.
There are also many websites that offer news and journal table of contents alert services. One example is Google Alerts for news and other web content. Another site, Journal TOCs, a free service that collects and makes available Table of Contents for the top academic journals in a wide range of disciplines. On their website you can browse or search for research areas.
It is important to keep in mind that with so many resources out there, you could quickly become overwhelmed with information being delivered daily. It is probably best to skim blogs and newsgroups until you settle on a specific idea, and then limit yourself to one or two key groups, newsfeeds, etc.
Open Access Resources can be invaluable for exploring your topic. These resources are freely available 'open access’ documents from professional and trade associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, research institutes, universities and other entities. These resources are not proprietary, meaning they do not require login or subscription (although occasionally for-profit associations may request that you create a free account to access their publications). They are good places to explore for statistics, reports, conference abstracts and proceedings, white papers, association newsletters, industry news and more.
NU Library maintains a collection of curated links organized by NU disciplines and specializations, as well as related academic topics. Visit the Open Access Resources Guide for recommended sites.
Wikipedia or other online wiki sources are helpful for finding background information on a topic and getting ideas for keywords and phrases, but they should never be used as a cited reference in academic research. These sites can be useful for learning the basics of a topic that you are not familiar with. If the website entries provide references, these can be sources of scholarly information to explore further.
Here is an example of an article with extensive references from academic books and journals on the topic of Mirror Symmetry. This article is also designated as a Feature Article by Wikipedia because meets specific criteria such as supporting claims with citations.