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How to Use the Internet to Find Study Materials

Finding recommended texts to study can be a challenge. The Internet can be particularly helpful in sourcing recommended or helpful reading texts. Try these ways of finding what you need:

  • Using your library online: Access your college library’s catalogue online to check the availability of recommended books, certainly on campus. If a book isn’t held in the library you can normally fill out an inter-library loan request slip online to borrow it from another library. This may take a week or two.

    The Internet can thus be used to give an up-to-date status report on the availability of material so that you can consider alternative action.

  • Using the Internet to buy books: Find copies of books that are hard to get hold of, perhaps because they’re out of print. www.amazon.co.uk for example, is probably the best source of second-hand books through its private seller system and the books are often quite cheap.

    Buy from a UK seller to cut down transport costs and time. Books can arrive within three days – check whether the seller posts first or second class. It’s worth bearing this in mind when you compare sellers and prices.

    You can re-sell any unwanted books on Amazon when you’ve finished with them. If they were useful to you, there’ll be someone out there who needs them, as long as they’re still readable (avoid underlining in ink and that sort of thing). You may even make a profit!

  • Accessing author’s work direct: If you can’t get hold of a book by a particular author, try searching for an article or paper he may have written on a similar topic. A good place to look is his home page if he has one, as these usually include a list of publications with their dates, and links to any that are available online.

    If you can’t locate a book or paper there’s no harm in going straight to the horse’s mouth and emailing the author – his email address will be on his home page. In addition, academics may well be happy to send you an article by email attachment, if you ask them nicely.

    They may even have a more recent conference paper on the topic which hasn’t yet been published, and which they’re happy to share with you.

  • Asking your peers’ opinion: If you’ve joined an online chat room to discuss your study interests, you may find someone there has a copy of the book you need or can help you. This is particularly useful if you only need a page or two as they can be electronically scanned and then sent to you as an email attachment.

    Online chat rooms are particularly useful for philosophers, but they can become a substitute for other work and an avoidance strategy, a bit like taking lots of baths. It’s important to talk to real people – in the pub or wherever – and not spend your break time in chat rooms. Use them only as a tool for your immediate use.

As well as getting information about your topic, the Internet can also help you find out about methodology. If you key in a search for a particular research or analysis method, you can almost certainly find not only some definitions but also some examples of the method in use. This can help you develop your own methods.

Equally importantly, it can help you to understand how the methodology was used or misused in someone else’s research, in terms of its appropriateness to the subject, its interpretation and its analysis.

It’s useful to find out the names of the well-known academics in your subject area and use an Internet search to find out where they’re currently working. They may well have put their course outlines and maybe even their lecture notes online so that their own students can access these off campus. You can take advantage of this as well as gaining another viewpoint or more detailed information.

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