Online Research Guide

The internet significantly impacts how students conduct online education research. According to the Pew Research Center, most learners today use Google or other online search engines when researching. Using the internet for academic research offers many benefits, including the ability to quickly access a large amount of information.

Online search engines deliver data in different multimedia formats, such as audio, video, and interactive websites

The internet also provides an opportunity to read the field’s latest research. Online search engines deliver data in different multimedia formats, such as audio, video, and interactive websites. With phones and tablets connected to the internet, students can access online information anywhere and anytime. When researching at a library or school, learners can only visit during operating hours.

However, students should understand the drawbacks to using the internet for online education research. Online information lacks organization, which often makes it more difficult to find concise data. The internet can also easily distract and overwhelm with information.

With this wealth of information, the internet houses plagiarized data and computer viruses. Students should use caution and learn how to detect untrustworthy sources and misinformation. The following guide covers how to use the internet for online education research, evaluate sources, and where to find other research tools beyond Google.

Using Google for Online Research

When used properly, search engines serve as an excellent resource for academic research. Altering search engine settings can help you filter unreliable sources and provide relevant results.

On Google, students can filter results by language, region, and publication date. Learners can also ask the search engine to provide results verbatim. For the search examples provided below, this online research guide uses Google, which remains the most commonly visited search engine.

Refining Your Search Results

Google provides several search shortcuts for refining an academic search, even research on online education. By using symbols or words in your search, you can refine search results. Common techniques include searching for hashtags, social media, or a price. You can even exclude words from your search or look for related websites.

One key function includes site search, which allows users to search for a specific website or domain. To use this function, add the term “site:” in front of a domain or website in the search bar. You should not add any spaces between site: and the website name.

Common techniques include searching for hashtags, social media, or a price

Students can also add a keyword before site: to find information about a specific topic within the website. For example, a degree candidate performing online teaching degree research about certification in other states can type certification before in the search bar. This search shortcut reveals information about certification on the official website for the National Education Association. You can also use this site function to filter by website class, such as .edu, .org, or .gov.

By using the advanced search function, students can refine complex searches. To use advanced search, visit the advanced search page, enter search information, and select one or more functions, including file type, last update, or region.

You can also further search results by using the tools button on Google. With tools, you can enter a specific time range for a page’s publication. This allows researchers to find the most timely sources.

Google Scholar

A free and accessible web search engine, Google Scholar helps learners search for scholarly literature. You can search across many disciplines and sources, including court opinions, articles, and books. Google Scholar helps students find relevant academic work from one convenient location, a benefit for degree candidates with limited research time. Users can search by author, title, and publication date.

Google Scholar creates free citations in MLA, APA, Chicago, and other citation styles for bibliographies

Students can also explore related works and similar authors and documents. Google Scholar’s benefits include the ability to narrow searches by publication date and find an author’s related academic works. You can also see how many times other students cited an academic source. Google Scholar creates free citations in MLA, APA, Chicago, and other citation styles for bibliographies.

Through a college or university library, students can set up Google Scholar preferences to access resources. Some educational institutions offer specific academic literature for enrolled students. Google Scholar provides a link to these scholarly articles and books for degree candidates who select this choice. You may need to sign into your school’s library account with a username and password.

Learners can explore more by visiting Google Scholar search tips.

Beyond Google

Besides Google, students can choose from many resources to conduct online research. College and university libraries usually give degree candidates access to academic search engines and databases. Similar to Google, these resources allow learners to search a topic, such as research on online education. Educational institutions usually offer these resources for free or at a discount to enrolled students.

The lists below shows some commonly used resources for general academic research, as well as databases and search engines specifically for teaching degree research.


  • AMiner This academic social network integrates academic data with researcher profiles. The network comprises more than 3 million publications; 700,000 researcher profiles; and 6,000 conferences.
  • BASE One of the world’s most voluminous academic search engines, BASE provides more than 120 million documents from more than 6,000 sources. Sixty percent of its documents are free.
  • CGP The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications offers students a tool for finding federal publications, including historical and current documents and a nearby Federal Depository Library.
  • CIA World Factbook Administered by the CIA, this free source provides information about the people, government, and history of 267 world entities. Users can also view various world maps.
  • ERIC Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Education Resources Information Center offers bibliographic records of journal and non-journal literature from 1966 to the present.
  • iSeek Education A time-saving, targeted search engine for teachers, administrators, students, and caregivers, iSEEK Education compiles hundreds of thousands of resources from governments, universities, and established noncommercial providers.
  • National Archives An online public portal, this catalog provides access to more than 2 million records from the Electronic Records Archives, which remain unavailable elsewhere on the internet.
  • OCLC The Online Computer Library Center operates WorldCat, the world’s largest online library catalog with videos, books, and audio. OCLC also offers many membership products and services.
  • CORE Known as Connecting Repositories, or CORE, this resource collects and makes available metadata and full-text content in the form of PDFs from many open access journals and repositories.

For Teaching Students

  • Gooru Students can access educational resources and course materials through this free online platform. Degree candidates can search by grade level, subject, and state standards.
  • SAGE Journals SAGE Publications offer more than 1,000 journals, including hundreds of publications about teaching and education. It also provides peer-reviewed, open access journals for teaching students.
  • Virtual Learning Resources Center The VLRC aims to provide the world’s best academic websites selected by teachers and library professionals. The search engine offers 10,000 web pages for students and current teachers.
  • Infotopia By pulling information from teachers, librarians, and other educational workers, this search engine provides information on literature, math, science, and history.
  • Project MUSE With more than 240 academic journals from 40 different publishers, this resource provides full-text articles covering recent issues in many arts and humanities disciplines, including education.
  • Teacher’s Reference Center (EBSCO) The TRC, a free research database for teachers and students, provides abstracts from more than 220 peer-reviewed publications. You can also search the database for journals and books.

Evaluating Sources

Since anyone can publish anything online, students should always evaluate sources for relevance and reliability. Online information usually does not receive quality or accuracy checks.

You should also check the reliability of any information found on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia created and edited by volunteers around the world. Wikipedia uses a model of openly editable content, meaning anyone can edit or improve an article.

You may find it difficult to determine authorship, or whether the content includes facts or opinions. Students should ask the following list of questions provided by Georgetown University and the University of Chicago Press when evaluating an online resource.

Who is the Author?

When determining a source’s reliability, consider the author, whose name should appear on the web page. Students should research the author’s education, occupation, and years of experience. Search engines, campus directory entries, and personal online homepages can provide more information about an author.

What is its Purpose?

Learners should also look at the source’s purpose. You can better judge a web page’s reliability by knowing the author’s motive or intentions. Some common purposes for sources include informing, explaining, persuading, and selling a product. By questioning the intended audience, the general public, or scholars, you may identify the author’s purpose.

Does it Look Professional?

A web page should not contain any spelling or grammatical errors, or any profanities. The site should appear clean and provide well-organized content. A web page’s organization usually includes an introduction, conclusion, and subheadings or chapter titles.

Is it Objective?

To determine a source’s objectivity, consider if information provided contains facts, opinions, or propaganda, also known as biased or misleading information. An author’s affiliations with an organization or institution can affect objectivity. Examine the author’s point of view and check for any emotion-arousing words, which can indicate bias.

Is it Current?

A web page’s timeliness can also affect credibility. With research changing constantly, information timeliness remains important. Students should observe when a site’s content was last updated. Some websites provide this information on the bottom of a page near the copyright date. Learners should not only check the publication or copyright date, but also if the administrator keeps the webpage updated constantly.

What Sites Does it Link to?

Credible web pages provide links related to the topic and useful to the site’s purpose. To check reliability, click the links to verify that they are active and current. Learners should evaluate each website independently since quality may vary. Students should also check the sources provided in the links, and if the web page evaluates or annotates links in any other way.

Organizing Your Research

Organizing online education research may feel overwhelming. After finding resources online, you must evaluate sources, organize data, and present the information in a logical way.

By creating a research plan and using steps to organize online research, you can save time and reduce stress. Creating a research plan can also show students what unnecessary information to omit. The following five general tips can help you manage and organize online research.

  • Read First

    Preliminary reading helps students focus research towards a specific topic. By reading articles and books, you may think of different questions or topics to explore.

  • Take Detailed Notes

    Always take complete and readable notes with citation details. By taking complete notes, you can easily find the resource at a later date.

  • Categorize Resources

    While taking notes and critically reading, students should place any valuable information found in similar categories. Categories help you stay on topic and omit unnecessary resources.

  • Create an Outline

    An outline can help learners think about the paper’s content and organization. Creating an outline with subheads can also direct the paper’s flow.

  • Write a Thesis Statement

    Creating a concise, arguable, and specific thesis can help you stay focused. A strong thesis statement also reflects the paper’s overall structure.

Online Tools to Manage Your Research

  • EasyBib Created 10 years ago, this free citation tool allows students to create bibliographic references and automatically format a bibliography with citations in MLA, APA, or Chicago style.
  • EndnoteOffered as a free online version or paid software program, this tool helps you create bibliographies and insert citations in a specific style.
  • Mendeley A free reference manager and an academic social network, this resource provides degree candidates with the tools to read, cite, and organize all research using one library.
  • RefWorks A web-based bibliography and database manager, this resource allows students to create a personal database by importing references from online databases, text files, and other sources.
  • Zotero This free tool helps learners collect, cite, organize, and share research found online. It also helps students collaborate to co-write papers, create group bibliographies, and distribute course material.

Citing Online Resources for Teaching Students

The citation style usually depends on the academic discipline being studied. For teaching degree research or education, students commonly use the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style. While citation styles usually require the same information, the order of information varies. Using the proper citation style in your research makes it easier for readers to look up sources.

The APA style uses in-text citations and a reference list on the last page. APA also requires a specific margin length, font size and type, and a running head at the top of each page. The paper’s format includes a title page, an abstract, and main body.

You may also come across the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation style when conducting online teaching degree research. The humanities, an academic discipline that includes English, linguistics, and art history, uses this style. While MLA emphasizes authorship, APA focuses on the publication’s creation date.

The following list shows three examples of APA style for the reference list.

Example 1: Schunk, D. H., Pintrich, P. R., & Meece, J. L. (2008). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications. Retrieved from

Example 2: Bailey, R., Armour, K., Kirk, D., Jess, M., Pickup, I., Sandford, R., & Education, B. P. (2009). The educational benefits claimed for physical education and school sport: An academic review. Research papers in education, 24(1), 1-27. Retrieved from

Example 3: Wiersma, W., & Jurs, S. G. (2005). Research methods in education: An introduction.Retrieved from