Research is an important and integral part of being a virtual assistant. Research can be done online, which means internet research skills are essential for success in the field. In this blog post we will outline 11 tips to become a better internet researcher so that you can give your clients the best possible service!
1. Use search engines to find information on specific topics
You can start with broad terms, but then refine your results by using more precise keywords and phrases. For example, if you are doing research about the solar system for a client who is writing an article about planets – use “solar system” as your starting term (this will give you a lot of general information). Then refine your search by using “solar system” and then “planets” (this will get more specific, but also might turn up results that are too detailed for the client’s needs – so use discretion).
2. Research tools
There is an abundance of research tools online. Some of these tools are free, while others have a fee. Some of the best internet research tools include:
3. Google Scholar
This is an excellent resource for academic and peer reviewed articles as well as reports from conferences and other meetings (like trade associations). You can also browse books or “cited by” references within articles to find related articles.
4. Google Alerts
This tool will monitor the web for keywords you are interested in and will send an email when new results are found. This is a great way to monitor your clients name, your company’s name or any other topic that interests you! You can even get alerts about specific websites if you want.
5. Access UN
This is a great resource for information about the United Nations. You can get UN reports, statistics and more on various topics of interest to you!
6. Social Mention
While some internet research tools are specifically for academic or professional purposes, social mention looks at how people use online media in general (like Facebook). This tool will give you an idea of what people are saying about certain topics, which can be helpful in many situations.
7. Google Books
This is not an internet research tool per see but, it does allow you to search for books on specific subjects and even narrow your search by time period or publication date! This can help if you want to find out how a certain topic was written about in the past.
8. Wolfram Alpha
This is a great search engine for more complex queries, mathematical problems or statistical analysis. It was created by Stephen Wolfram and is meant to be an expert system that can answer questions on many different topics (including trivia!). This tool helps you get specific with your internet research so it’s perfect if you need to find very specific information.
the best way to become a better internet researcher is by actually doing research on the web yourself and becoming more familiar with different types of content formats, navigation tools and other things that can help make your life easier as a virtual assistant! The more time you spend online researching for clients, the easier you will find it to navigate and discover information.
10. Use social media to find new information on topics you are searching for
Social media can be a goldmine of useful, interesting and even obscure material that is not indexed by search engines. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest allow users to “reblog” or share posts with their followers – which means just because something isn’t on the first page of Google, doesn’t mean it’s not out there!
11. Use advanced web searches
- Google has a special tool called “search within the site”. This allows you to search only one website, which can be helpful if your client is looking for information on their own company’s webpage.
- Use advanced web searches with quotes around key phrases or words that are important to narrow down results (for example: “university of texas” instead of “university of Texas”).
- Use “site” to find information on a specific website. This can be helpful if you are looking for more obscure or less well known sites that might not have the best search engine optimization (SEO). For example, say your client is interested in finding out all the different types of damage that a home might incur during a natural disaster. You could Google [site:RedCross.org “natural disasters”] to find all the pages on Red Cross’ website about home damage due to natural disasters (like floods and hurricanes).
- Use advanced web searches with keywords like “filetype”, “intitle” and “inurl” to find specific file types on the web. For example, [intitle:drought] will search for pages in which the keywords “drought” appear in the page title (and not just anywhere in a webpage). Using these queries can help you limit your results even further!
- Use the minus symbol (-) before words and phrases you don’t want to include in your search. For example, [unemployment -texas] will bring up results for unemployment information that does not mention the state of Texas (or things like “jobs” instead of “unemployed people”).
- Use advanced web searches with negative words or phrases enclosed by quotation marks (“”). This gives you the power to search for specific phrases but exclude other results. For example, [“jobs in texas” -unemployed]. This will bring up pages with “jobs in Texas’ and remove any that also mention unemployment or unemployed people.
- Use advanced web searches related to a year range (for example: [past year]) or an exact date (for example: [March 15, 2018]). This will help you get search results that are more current than older articles.
- Use advanced web searches with keywords like “cache” to view cached pages of the internet – if a page is no longer available online, this may bring it back for you!
- Get a general idea of how many results a search engine will return by typing in “site:” and then adding the site you want to look at. This can be helpful if your client is looking for something really specific, as it gives an estimated number of pages that might contain what they are searching for!
All in all
We hope you enjoyed these 11 tips for becoming a better online research assistant. If you have some other great suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!