Metasearch Technology as a Research Inspiration Tool
By Carol Froisy
Program Director, English and Communication at American Public University
I subscribe and regularly access three databases–ProQuest, RefWorks, and EBSCO–and six libraries for professional research. Among those include New York Public Library, The London Library, Reading Room of the British Museum, and, of course, The Library of Congress. But long before I write a research thesis, there is an exploration phase. Too many times writer’s block strikes researchers before they even put pen to paper. From academia’s viewpoint, research must establish a problem that will make a difference, have a potential goal (solves a problem), and is beneficial to others. From the researcher’s perspective, the project must be motivating. So, what is the best way to choose an exciting topic that will transform, decipher, and be helpful to others?
Begin the inspiration process by using metasearch technology. If I enter “Feedback in college online forums” into a metasearch engine like Dogpile.com, it will provide results that include content, images, video, news, local, and more. Dogpile claims to return 50 percent more possibilities than regular search engines such as Google or Safari. It also has advanced search and comparison search features that can lead to deeper results than Wikipedia pages.
Another metasearch site is Clusty.com, which features grouping folders. This is especially helpful to make cross-references and the folder generated for the searcher covers a wide range of possibilities that do not ordinarily come to mind. Clusty’s pages are stark, but when I searched “giving good feedback,” so many inspirational sources appeared that it was difficult to decide which to open first. So, I clicked on one of the convenient source topics that are provided, and I found six potential focus areas for my research. Bookmark! It is like having a research assistant while you tend to the actual writing process and database searching process.
My 12-year-old son uses WolframAlpha.com. It’s a more visual and math-driven tool and it inspires him to start his schoolwork and stay with it. Other options include ZapMeta.com, Mamma.com, Search.com, Ixquick.com, Copernic.com, and metacrawler.com.
To achieve more effective research results, start with metasearch. Think of it as a gold miner’s pan. Solid research will rely on peer reviewed articles, but the key to more effective research is to discover a golden nugget of a subject.
About the Author
Carol Froisy is the Program Director for the English, Communication, Literature, Art History and Music departments. She has been teaching with APUS since 2007 staring as an adjunct faculty member. Carol is currently a doctoral candidate at Northcentral University. She has four children ages 40-12 and grandchildren. Her husband is retiring in July, 2015 from the United States Marine Corps after 31 years of service to our country. Carol would not know what to do with free time if she had some, and that is all right with her.