When starting a research project, even librarians take a look at Google or even Wikipedia. You may be thinking that your professor or friendly librarians always advise you NEVER to rely on these somewhat dubious sources. You would never, ever cite this type of source in your paper, but they can be useful tools. But how?, you may wonder. When you are new to a topic, often the case when you start a research project, you may be unfamiliar with the area of academic inquiry. Use these “quick and dirty” tools to familiarize yourself with the basic background on a topic. What are the important concepts? Key dates? Major academic players? Get yourself up to speed.
Say, for example, you heard recently that early exposure to peanuts may impact peanut allergies in children. This might be a great topic for your food science paper. But you are fuzzy on the details – was it a study? Recent or older? Was it just babies or older kids as well? If you visit Google, and search for, “peanut allergies research exposure”, you can read through some quick information on the topic from sources like recent news stories, National Institutes of Health panel announcement, medical websites, and more. From there, you can determine if this is a topic which you would like to pursue, and collect basic information on any studies, time frame when the studies were published, names of researchers in the field, etc. Now, with those basics in your grasp, you can move on to reliable scholarly resources. Your research is off to a good start.
Remember to keep Internet searching in your toolbox when starting a research paper. While these web-based searches should not be your main research tactic, nor should they appear in your bibliography, they can help you educate yourself on a topic.