It isn’t a mere coincidence that kids today are called ‘the Gen Z’ or the iGeneration…And…I do know that you too are secretly wondering if the ‘i’ before ‘Generation’ has anything to do with the ‘iPhone’? Well, you’ re absolutely right! Just as the ‘i’ in ‘iPhone’ stands for “internet”, so does the ‘i’ in ‘iGeneration’. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that kids today are more technology-savvy than their parents, simply by virtue of being born in the “information age”, which probably explains why their play-toys are also driven by technology…spanning a range of kiddie phones to kiddie laptops to kiddie tablets. In fact, more often than not, your precious five-year-old would be knowing more about your precious smartphone than you’d ever dare to hope.
However having said that…simply being born in the ‘age of information’ does not guarantee that the kids will have an inbuilt know-how on “How to make technology work for them”. In fact, this paradox has been explained well by Jonathan Sacks, a British rabbi, who once remarked: ’Technology gives us power, but it does not and cannot tell us how to use that power. [Therefore] Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate across the world, but it still doesn’t help us know what to say”. Thus, these little tech-savvy geniuses still need to learn as to how to: (a) search for the desired information, (b) find the relevant information, and (c) use the gathered information.
And just in case you’re wondering why is that so? This is because of the difference between ‘data’ and ‘information’. While data is gibberish and seldom makes sense, information is intelligent and always makes sense. Thus, it is an art to fish for intelligent information from amongst the voluminous mass of data that is available on the internet. In fact, this Herculean task has been described well by Mitchell Kapor — an American entrepreneur — who jokes, “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”. No kidding!
So, then…now that we have seen the challenges of procuring information, let me share a few research tips that will aid students as they undertake their research work (with or without the internet).
Research, as they say, is concentrated curiosity, i.e. poking, prying, and prodding for a precise purpose. Hence, even before you decide where and how to look for the relevant information, it is important to first determine “what” you’re looking for. Hence, do not head straight for your internet dongles, but spend time spelling out your “research objectives” and “research questions”. A useful tool to generate a list of research questions is the popular tool called the mind map, which is a diagram that helps in “visually” organising thoughts, ideas, key points, etc.
Hence, to create a mind map for your research work, put the ‘research topic’ in the centre of the sheet. From the centre, extend the branches outward to represent major headings and label them accordingly. These headings are the ‘WHAT’ of your research. If need be, you can also make sub-branches and inter-linkages. These will come in handy when you commence your actual research.
Well, even though the internet has become the “go-to” for research, the truth is that there are a lot of research resources apart from the internet – for example, newspapers, magazines, old books, etc. Hence, you need to assess what resources will best help you in finding the answers to your ‘research questions’, which would have been generated by the mind map.
Of course, let us assume that you are going to use the internet and the internet alone, even then you must always remember the following: ‘Even though the internet is a vast resource, it needs to be used critically’. This is because anyone can post anything on the internet…and it need not correct at all. Hence, even when you are on the internet and doing your research, it is important to use credible sources and sites.
Last but certainly not the least, the internet may not provide all the answers. Or you may have to conduct a primary research, which means you have to directly approach people to get the answers to your questions.
When it comes to the ‘HOW’ of research, it basically means how you will go ahead in looking for information. Let us say your research topic is – ‘Favourite Ice-cream Flavour of Kids’. And you decide to use both secondary research (i.e. use the internet for information) to find the answer; and primary research (i.e. ask people directly) to validate the answer.
In such a scenario, you will first open the omnipresent and omnipotent ‘Google’ and find out what ice-cream flavour is favoured by kids, world over. Let us say, the internet research (aka the secondary research) tells you that kids seem to favour chocolate ice-cream globally; you can now validate (i.e. “confirm” this finding) by carrying out a sample survey with actual real-life kids. Hence, you will have to approach different kids (minimum – 30 kids; maximum – no limit) and ask them their favourite ice-cream flavour…And thus…you will have your research finding.