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Internet research is something that is undervalued and unappreciated by most journalists in the mainstream media, but online research tools now offer Internet-savvy journalists with the ability to conduct powerful research on the internet.
Usually, those who frown upon the quality of Internet research are “old school” journalists who long for the days when you had to walk down to the local library in order to conduct “proper” research on the background of a particular topic.
However, times have changed drastically, and today the overwhelming reach and power of the Internet is giving both journalistic researchers and scientific researchers a run for their money. Today, almost anyone can become an armchair researcher – quickly becoming a so-called “expert” on any topic. However, writers with a true journalistic flair can write and publish stories more quickly and with far more detail than their newspaper journalist counterparts of even just ten years ago.
Finding Powerful Internet Research Tools
There are countless research tools for online writers who are interested in digging for information about any topic. But three very useful tools in particular come from Cogitum LC, a company that offers three useful free tools that can help you collect and organize information as you’re scouring the Internet for data. These three tools are:
- Co-Citer – Records quoted text, its title and URL, and the date you collected it.
- Co-Tracker 2.0 – Captures an image, its URL and the URL it links to, and the date you captured it.
- FotoTagger – A image editing tool that lets you point out and note details about photographs.
Each of these three tools have unique features that are very useful to researchers, especially those who are working on research for market, educational or scientific papers that require proper citations of all sources.
In order to provide an example of the power of this software, I’m going to use niche industry research on the real estate market that I’m currently working on for a client. In this example, I’ve found information about real estate demographics. At Realestatejournal.com, I found a great Wall Street Journal news blurb entitled “Foreclosure Rate Outpaces Bank Sales.” The data in this article is very useful. To cite a section of such an online article, you just highlight the text you want to cite (in Internet Explorer) and then right-click and select “Grab Selected Text.” Co-Citer will open and allow you to add a comment for the citation as well.
The nice thing about the Co-Citer is that you don’t have to keep multiple windows or documents open, trying to keep track of the URL or the quote. Every time you find useful data, you can simply right click, add a comment to describe why you find the quote useful, and then move on. Using this application alone has cut down my own research time by at least 25%, and I don’t lose citations anymore.
Another valuable research tool from Cogitum is the image “Co-Tracker,” which essentially does the same thing as the Co-Citer, but it does it for images. Whenever you’re utilizing images from the internet where the image creator provides images for free, as long as the source is cited – this tool makes it simple to do so by keeping track of the source of all of those photos for you.
Once you’ve installed the application, it’s installed as an IE add-on. So when you find a photo you want to use, simply right click and select “Grab Image.”
As shown above, Co-Tracker automatically saves the file on your hard drive, and it includes three editable lines which you can use to attach any information you want to the stored image. Once you’re finished collecting images from around the internet, the Image Co-Tracker provides you with an entire catalog of images stored under whatever categories you create for them.
This makes it easy to create a large database of images that you can reuse again and again, without worrying about losing track of the source of those images.
FotoTagger is another IE add-on that you can use to automatically capture online images and then add tags to them. On IE, just right click and select “Grab to Fototagger.” You can also open up the Fototagger application and just open any image you like.
The cool thing about this application is that within less than a minute, you can completely fill a photo with detailed tags. This is useful when you need to point out specific details about an object, or provide someone with detailed directions.
Fototagger also has features that allow you to automatically post the tagged image to your blog, or export it to Flickr. You can also export to HTML or send it in an email.
I use Fototagger mainly as a quick method to mock-up detailed images as part of a research report, but with the “balloon” tag feature, you could create funny images from family photos or create a detailed “how-to” update on your blog, complete with tagged images outlining each step.
Conducting research on the Internet often involves hundreds of educational websites, online news archives, and countless other valuable resources. When you find a valuable bit of information within those volumes, it can be a very tedious chore to try to keep track of those citations. With these Cogitum tools, you can track and manage both text and images as you’re surfing quickly through resources, drastically cutting down on the time it takes you to get your work finished.
Do you conduct a lot of online research for school or for work? What free tools do you use to keep track of sources? Share your own online research experiences in the comments section below.