The Web is great for some kinds of research – and not very useful for others. If you are looking for scholarly articles, you’ll find many of them are not free online. If you are looking for news stories, you may need to one of the library’s databases because many news sites limit access to subscribers. If you’re looking for fairly recent government information (which is in the public domain) it’s terrific. It’s also getting quite useful for collections of primary sources that are out of copyright and datasets created by scholars and scientists. Many organizations provide good (if one-sided) information about issues. And of course it’s a good way to put your finger on the pulse of popular culture.
Technology that makes the Web more interactive – a place where content can be shared and changed spontaneously – was dubbed Web 2.0 when it was new. It raises a lot of questions about authorship, stability of information, and copyright – which some find troubling and others applaud. Social sites have enhanced the interactivity of the Web while, in the background, gathering massive amounts of personal data.
Google is currently the leading search engine, though there are others (including one that doesn’t collect information about your searches to build an advertising empire). Try Google’s advanced search to hone your search by limiting it to particular domains, recently updated pages, and the like. There are also these specialized Google searches:
Note that there are some nifty ways to refine a search if you poke around. In the basic Google search, you can limit by date.
When using the Image search, you can refine your list of results to images that are licensed for reuse by clicking on Search tools – Image rights.
In addition to limiting a search by date, use these tricks.
Check the URL for clues
be prepared to . . .
Duck Duck Go is a search engine that doesn’t track your searches.
StartPage is a Dutch search engine that uses Google but doesn’t track your search history.
Privacy Badger is a browser extension that blocks non-consensual third party trackers. Sometimes you have to turn it off to load a page, but that’s super-easy.
HTTPS Everywhere helps encrypt sites that have encryption available but not fully implemented. Encryption keeps mischief-makers from intercepting web traffic and routing you to places you don’t want to go or injecting malware.
Tor is a project to develop privacy tools online, including a browser and a complete operating system you can run on a flash drive. It works by routing your traffic through multiple servers, making it a distributed anonymous network.
Tunnel Bear is a VPN (virtual private network) application for computers and phones. It lets you conceal your IP address and location by routing your traffic through servers in another country.
ESRI Story Map - create a map and illustrate it with photos to tell a story.
Thinglink - annotate images and videos. (A commercial product with a free test version; I haven't tried this.)
Timeline.js - simple tool that uses a Google spreadsheet to create visually rich timelines. See an example.
More digital tools to make neat things sorted by purpose
Whether we have a joint website or individual ones, you'll need to compose some content, and for this course that means writing some blog posts. Your posts should relate to the material we discuss in class and/or your research and can be whatever length you like, but will probably come in at 250-500 words. You can illustrate them by including pictures or videos. If you use pictures that aren't yours, seek ones that are licensed for reuse and include a credit and link to the source.
Here are some ideas.
Blogs and Sites by Academics
The primary ways that academics and scientists communicate their findings is through journal articles, books, conference papers, and so forth – formal reports intended for other scholars that (ideally) extend what we know about the world. But sometimes academics talk more informally to each other and sometimes they communicate to people who aren’t specialists through articles in the popular press, opinion pieces, or using social media. Here are a few examples of these less formal kinds of writing.
In addition to blogs, here are a couple of publications that aim to make academic research accessible to the public.
The Conversation is a publication started in Australia that seeks to provide the public with information from academics who can speak to current events. It’s basically a news outlet that uses university faculty as its journalists.
Pacific Standard is a magazine that is run by a non-profit organization that seeks to bring behavioral and social science research to a general audience.
American Rhetoric – text, audio, and video (when available) of famous speeches
Digital Public Library of America – collects digital material from around the country and encourages reuse.
Eurodocs – European primary documents
Hathi Trust – a joint project of research libraries for searching full text of books and developing new tools
Library of Congress Digital Collections
Making of America a full-text digital collection of thousands of 19th century books and journals
New York Public Library Digital Collections
Online Books Page a collection of online books from various sites
Online news sources
Google News – an automated news aggregator, interesting for world reactions and breaking news; you can switch countries to see what's up there.
Internet Archive TV News - searchable newscasts from 2007 to present. Pretty amazing.
Today’s Front Pages from the Newseum.
Newsmap – turns Google News into a visual map of stories and their influence by country.
Chronicling America – digitized historical newspapers from around the US between 1936 and 1922. For example, you can read issues of The Progress published on the White Earth reservation from 1886-1889.
NewsDiffs - tracks changes made to online news reports from a number of news organizations
Sources for Images
Flickr a social networking site for photos. To find photos licensed for reuse, narrow a search by clicking on the drop down "any license" link and choose "creative commons."
Flickr Commons a collection of photos from cultural institutions that have no known copyright restrictions.
MorgueFile – a collection of royalty-free photos you can reuse
Wikimedia Commons – repository of millions of images and videos either in the public domain or licensed for reuse.
WorldImages – a collection of 70,000 art, architecture, and historical images that can be used for educational purposes
NOTE: when building a website, you should use images that are licensed for reuse, are in the public domain, or are photos you took yourself. It's good practice to indicate the source of images and to avoid reusing copyrighted images.
visualization of data
Gapminder – a Swedish nonprofit effort to visualize time series and national data to promote global sustainability.
Tableau – a program you can download to create visualizations – assembly required. Check out the Gallery.
Wordle – a simple tool for creating word clouds that show the relative frequency of words. This example highlights words used most frequently in the Bill of Rights.
Lost and Found
RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) is a means of “feeding” you news from Websites as they are updated. You can create a personal collection of feeds using an aggregator such as Feedly.
keeping track, marking up
Zotero is great for storing references to books, articles, and webpages. In addition to Zotero, social bookmarking tools such as Diigo, Stumbleupon, and Pinboard (subscription required) allow you to keep a set of personal bookmarks that is accessible from any Internet-connected computer. They also aggregate people’s choices so that you can find sites others have bookmarked. Diigo has an annotation feature for websites. Hypothesis is a nifty tool for annotating websites. To see an example, sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom used Hypothesis to annotate Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.