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6.4 Blogs

The founder of Technorati  claims that the number of ‘blogs’ doubles every five months and that the creation rate is approaching two per second. One estimate I read in July 2010 put the number at 400 million blogs. Because these online diaries offer instant publishing opportunities, you potentially have access to a wealth of knowledge from commentators and experts (if they blog) in a wide ra
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6.3 Mailing lists and newsgroups

Mailing or discussion lists are email-based discussion groups. When you send an email to a mailing list address, it is sent automatically to all the other members of the list.

The majority of academic-related mailing lists in the UK are maintained by JISCMail. You will find details of joining these mailing lists on the JISCMailJ website. Mailing lists
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6.2 Alerts

Online bookshops and some of the major search engines offer ‘Alerts’ services. These work by allowing you to set up a profile once you have registered on their site, and when there are items meeting your criteria you receive an email. The good thing about alerts is that you don’t have to do anything once you have set up your profile. The downside, particularly with alerts services from the search engines, is that given the extent to which internet traffic is on the increase whether new
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6.1 Introduction

The process of keeping up-to-date in your chosen subject area is useful for your studies and afterwards, for your own personal satisfaction, or perhaps in your career as part of your continuing professional development.

There are a great many tools available that make it quite easy to keep yourself up to date. You can set them up so that the information comes to you, rather than you having to go out on the web looking for it. Over the next few pages, you will be experimenting with some
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5.8 Plagiarism

Referencing is not only useful as a way of sharing information, but also as a means of ensuring that due credit is given to other people’s work. In the electronic information age, it is easy to copy and paste from journal articles and web pages into your own work. But if you do use someone else’s work, you should acknowledge the source by giving a correct reference.

Taking someone's work and not indicating where you took it from is termed plagiarism and is regarded as an infringemen
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5.5 Copyright – what you need to know

An original piece of work, whether it is text, music, pictures, sound recordings, web pages, etc., is protected by copyright law and may often have an accompanying symbol (©) and/or legal statement. In the UK it is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 which regulates this.

In most circumstances, works protected by copyright can be used in whole or in part only with the permission of the owner. In some cases this permission results in a fee.

However, the UK legislation incl
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5.4 Social bookmarks

If you find you have a long unmanageable list of favourites/bookmarks you might like to try social bookmarks as an alternative.

Activity 14 – what you need to know about social bookmarks

Read 7 things you should know about so
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5.3.2 The 5 Ds

If you don’t use a system at all, then you could suffer from the effects of information overload:

  • losing important information;

  • wasting time on trying to find things;

  • ending up with piles of physical and virtual stuff everywhere.

One technique you might like to apply to your files (be they paper or electronic) is the 5 Ds. Try applying these and see if you can reduce your information overload.


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5.3.1 Desktop search tools

Finding your paperwork or electronic files can be a problem. You may find that even if you do have some sort of filing system, your structure soon gets quite large with files in multiple locations, which can be hard to navigate. You may find yourself making arbitrary decisions about which folder to place a document in. It may make sense now but in the future, when you look where you think it should be, it’s not there.

At times like this you may resort to the search command from the Wi
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5.1 Why is it important to be organised?

  • 87 per cent of items that are filed into a filing cabinet are never looked at again. STANFORD UNIVERSITY

  • In 2010, the world’s digital information output was estimated to pass 1.2zettabytes – A zettabyte is a new term which equals a thousand billion gigabytes. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (BERKELEY)

  • A new blog is created every second. TECHNORATI

  • 10 per cent of salary cos
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4.6 P is for Provenance

The provenance of a piece of information (i.e. who produced it? where did it come from?) may provide another useful clue to its reliability. It represents the 'credentials' of a piece of information that support its status and perceived value. It is therefore very important to be able to identify the author, sponsoring body or source of your information.

Why is this important?

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4.5 M is for Method

Method is about the way in which a piece of information is produced. This is quite a complex area as different types of information are produced in different ways. These are a few suggestions to look out for:

Opinions – A lot of information is based on the opinion of individuals. They may or not be experts in their field (see P for Provenance) but the key message is to be clear that it is just an opinion and must be valued as such.

Research – You don’t have t
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4.4 O is for Objectivity

One of the characteristics of ‘good’ information is that it should be balanced and present both sides of an argument or issue. This way the reader is left to weigh up the evidence and make a decision. In reality, we recognise that no information is truly objective.

This means that the onus is on you, the reader, to develop a critical awareness of the positions represented in what you read, and to take account of this when you interpret the information. In some cases, authors may be
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4.3 R is for Relevance

Relevance is an important factor to consider when you are evaluating information. It isn’t so much a property of the information itself but of the relationship it has with your question or your ‘information need’. For example, if you are writing an essay about robotics a book or website about green energy would probably not be relevant. So there are a number of ways in which a piece of information may not be relevant to your query:

  • geographical
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4.2 P is for Presentation

By presentation, we mean, the way in which the information is communicated. You might want to ask yourself:

  • Is the language clear and easy to understand?

  • Is the information clearly laid out so that it is easy to read?

  • Are the fonts large enough and clear?

  • Are the colours effective? (e.g. white or yellow on black can be difficult to read)

  • If there are graphics or photos, do they help
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3.9 News sources

Many news sources are now available online. Searching an online version of a newspaper is easier, quicker and more effective than searching through printed indexes, microfilm or actual newspapers.

EurekAlert!A global gateway dealing with news and links to information in the fields of
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3.7 Encyclopedias

Encyclopedias can be useful reference texts to use to start your research. There are some available online, such as:

Wikipedia A freely available collaborative encyclopedia.
Encyclopedia Br
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3.4 Databases

At a basic level, a database is a collection of information which can be searched. It is a way of storing, indexing, organising and retrieving information. You may have created one yourself to keep track of your references – or your friends' names and addresses. They are useful for finding articles on a topic, and can be used to search for many different types of information.

You may find some of the following databases useful for your topic. They contain different types of informatio
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3.2 Search engines and subject gateways

Although both search engines and subject gateways will help you find the resources that you need, the types of information that you find will differ.

Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! search the internet for keywords or phrases, and then show you the results. These results are not mediated by the search engines, and therefore you need to use your own judgement on the reliability of the results. You may, for example, find websites written by experts, alongside websites written by
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2.1 Planning your search

Your approach to searching will depend to a great extent on what kind of person you are. In an ideal world, when searching for information for a specific purpose, we would all find what exactly we were looking for at the first attempt, especially if we are in a hurry. However, it’s always a good idea to have some kind of plan when you are searching for information, if only to help you plan your time and make sure you find the information you need. If I was starting to search for material on
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