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Digital Resources

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Digital Resources

When researching a topic for an essay or project, you should ensure you have a good amount of knowledge and that reliable and accurate sources back up this knowledge. Researching widely across both print and digital resources can help ensure your information is factually correct, up-to-date, and complete.

Look at it this way, using a wide range of sources is an excellent way to fill in any blanks you might come across during your research. The kind of sources we'll be focusing on in this explanation are digital resources. We'll look at different types of digital resources, some examples, and the pros and cons of using digital research materials.

Digital Resources, man looking at an iPad, StudysmarterFig. 1 - The internet is a source of many digital resources

Digital Resources Definition

It makes sense to start at the very beginning. With that in mind, let's look at the definition of digital resources.

A digital resource is any material created through digital means or translated from an analog (paper) state to a digital one.

The word “digital” itself refers to any electronic piece of technology that creates, uses, or stores information in a sequence of 1s and 0s. You might have heard of the term binary code or simply binary. Binary code is a coding system that uses 1s and 0s in different sequences to represent different letters, numbers, and symbols. Binary code is essentially the language of the digital world.

Types of Digital Resources

It's likely that during your time in high school, you've had to do your fair share of research. Within the realm of digital resources, we can split items into two categories: internet resources and offline digital resources. You'll probably be familiar with most of these:

Internet Resources

  • Websites

  • Blogs

  • Forums/ Chatrooms

  • Search engines

  • Online libraries and databases

Offline Digital Resources

  • Photos/ Images

  • Videos

  • Audio recordings

Digital Resources Examples

Now we have a basic idea of some of the digital resources that exist, let's look at some examples of each:

Internet Resource Examples

  • Websites: A website is any site you can navigate to on the internet. Websites can be educational, instructional, entertaining, and descriptive and are also commonly used to sell products and services.

Wikipedia, online retail sites, academic or institution sites, and social media sites are all examples of websites, but the list really is endless. Not all websites will be reliable sources for research (for example, you should not take things you read on social media at face value), so you need to check to ensure the information you find is accurate.

Checking the Reliability of Digital Sources

When using digital resources, particularly online ones, you must do extra work to ensure that the sources you find are reliable and up-to-date. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Look for a date to check that an article or webpage is current. You'll often find the date under the article's heading, along with the name of the article's author. You should also look for the term “Last updated on,” as this will tell you when the article or page was last edited. As far as time is concerned, if a website looks outdated, oversimplified, or just plain old – you should probably look elsewhere for your information.
  • Try to find information on the websites of widely recognized and respected institutions. University websites, foundation websites, and academic journals will have much more reliable and complete information than websites created by an amateur. If you see an article written by someone whose name you recognize (and perhaps you've read or studied their work before), this is also a sign that the article or page is reliable. Established authors go hand in hand with established institutions.
  • Look for references and links to other websites. If you've found a useful article on a particular subject, scroll down to the bottom to see if the author has referenced any works on the subject. You might find that they've cited and referenced academic journals on the topic, textbooks, or other web articles that they've found useful. References show that an article has been researched and is, therefore, more reliable.
  • This one might seem obvious, but only seek information on websites with expertise or authority on your research topic. For example, you wouldn't research The Great Gatsby on a cooking website but on websites dedicated to literature and literary analysis.
  • Blogs: Blogs are online journals where people record their thoughts, activities, or opinions about different subjects. Although blogs can be full of helpful information (e.g., a travel blog), they can also be creative and maintain a narrative based on the author's life.

Blogs are often found on websites that center on related subjects (e.g., a blog about top fishing tips is likely to be found on a website about fishing).

  • Forums/ Chatrooms: Forums and chatrooms are virtual spaces online where people can get together to ask questions, seek advice, and share information about different topics. Information found in a forum or chatroom should be taken with a pinch of salt and verified or fact-checked elsewhere, as there's no way of knowing if what people say in forums is accurate.

Many websites will have their own forum space. If we take the example of a fishing website, along with a blog about fishing tips and pages selling fishing equipment, the website might also have a forum where people can discuss all things “fishing.”

  • Search engines: Search engines are tools for looking up information on the internet by searching for specific keywords or phrases. You type in your search query, and the search engine will search the internet for information matching your keywords. It will then return the most relevant results to you. Google is the most used search engine in the world!

Search engines that might be useful to you as a student include Google Scholar and your school's own online database of resources.

Digital Resources, Google, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Google is the most popular search engine used in America

  • Online libraries and databases: These resources are exactly what they say on the tin. Online libraries and databases are places where you can find books and other materials, such as journals, academic articles, and newspapers, online.

Your school might have an online library so that more people can access the same resources at once without having to borrow hard copies from the physical library.

Offline Digital Resource Examples

  • Photos/ Images: Photos and other kinds of images are digital because they are comprised of pixels. Images can be created through photography (taking photos with a camera) or using creative programs like PhotoShop or AutoCAD.

Pixels are tiny colorful squares that, when purposefully arranged together, create digital images. Every pixel in an image is assigned a number which tells the computer what color it should be.

  • Video: Videos are created using electronic technology such as smartphones or video cameras. The resulting videos are processed and stored as sequences of 1s and 0s in binary code (as mentioned earlier in the article).

Most libraries will have video sections where you can borrow DVDs based on different topics. You can also find videos online on websites such as YouTube. Remember to fact-check information you learn from videos to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.

  • Audio recording/ music: Similar to videos, music and other audio recordings are also created using electronic technology and are made up of binary code sequences.

Libraries may also have access to audio recordings and CDs. Remember, audio can mean more than music, and you might even be able to find some recorded interviews from the past.

Digital Resources, binary code, StudySmarterFig. 3 - Digital resources such as photos, videos, and music can be translated into binary code.

Digital Resources in Education

Research in education allows students to practice the skills necessary to find information, fact-check it, back it up with evidence, and analyze it to draw conclusions. Digital resources are essential to your research as a student and can provide versatile learning experiences.

Using Digital Resources in Your Study

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of digital resources during your studies:

Finding Resources

Look for digital resources that are useful, reliable, and up-to-date. Some places you can go to for reliable digital resources include:

  • Your school's online library

  • Academic journals

  • College and university websites

These sources will only publish articles and information that are reliable and current.

Useful Digital Resources for English Language

Some helpful digital resources to supplement your English Language studies include:

  • Archived newspapers, images, videos, and audio recordings

  • Online textbooks

  • Academic journals

  • Online dictionaries and thesauruses (these can help make your writing more interesting and provide definitions)

You should be able to find all of these things in your school's library database.

Referencing Digital Resources

You will know by now how important referencing is. Here are some examples of how to reference digital resources using the MLA style:

To reference a webpage or article on a website, you should use this format:

Last name, First name. “Name of page or article.” Name of website. Link to website. Accessed date.

Baldwin, Emma. “The Great Gatsby Themes and Analysis”. Book Analysis, https://bookanalysis.com/f-scott-fitzgerald/the-great-gatsby/themes-analysis/. Accessed 13 September 2022.

To reference an academic journal, use this format:

Last name, First name. “Name of journal article.” Name of journal, volume and issue number (date of publication). Link to article.

Basu-Zharku, Iulia O. “The Great Gatsby's Relation to and Importance as a Work of Art.” Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 3.01 (2011). <http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=354>

To reference an archived newspaper article, you should use this format:

Last name, First Name. “Title of article.” Title of newspaper (date of publication) Section Number. Medium*.

Banks-Altekruse, Charles. “Give the Olympics a Home.” New York Times (1 March 2010). A1. Web. 15th September 2022.

When referencing online news articles, you should include the date that you read the article.

Evaluating Digital Resources

As with any process or medium, digital resources have their time and place. They can be incredibly useful for several reasons, as seen throughout this article, but like everything else, they also have their downsides.

We'll now look at some of the pros and cons of digital resources:

Digital Resources Advantages and Disadvantages

Depending on your research style, you might be someone who loves researching online and using a multitude of digital aids. Alternatively, you might prefer the old-school approach of heading to the library and getting stuck into some textbooks. Whatever your personal view of digital resources, it's important to appreciate their upsides and downsides.

Advantages

  • They add variety to research and information rather than only using print resources.

  • Online resources enable the researcher to cross-reference information across several sources to ensure information is current and factually accurate.

  • Digital tools are more interactive than print resources, giving people more opportunities to creatively and critically approach topics.

  • Many digital resources are free or inexpensive, whereas textbooks and other print resources can be quite pricey.

Disadvantages

  • Most digital resources require internet access and/or electrical equipment, which some people might not have regular access to.

  • Online resources can be difficult to verify, and some information might not be accurate or up-to-date.

  • Access to too many different digital sources can sometimes muddy the waters and lead to confusion or overwhelm.

  • Many distractions on the internet do not exist in real-world environments, such as libraries or classrooms.

  • Digital resources are not always enough on their own; they may need to be supplemented with print resources to create a complete understanding of your research subject.

Digital Resources - Key Takeaways

  • Digital resources have been created digitally or translated from analog to digital formats.
  • The two key types of digital resources are internet resources and offline digital resources.
  • Internet resources include websites, blogs, search engines, and forums, whereas offline digital resources include images, music, and video.
  • Digital resources are useful educational tools as they provide students with a variety of new learning opportunities and methods.
  • Digital resources have advantages and disadvantages and should be supplemented with print resources.

Frequently Asked Questions about Digital Resources

Online digital resources are resources that can be found on the internet such as blogs, websites, forums etc. 

Digital resources are sources accessed online using technology such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Technology is a useful aid in enabling access to different kinds of information and resources that we might not be able to access in print, or in our geographical region. Digital resources can also make use of technology outside of the internet: such as cameras, CDs and cassettes, etc. 

Some examples of digital resources include: 


  • Video footage
  • Audio recordings
  • Music or sound recordings
  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Online forums and chatrooms
  • Search engines

The purpose of digital resources is to improve your understanding of a subject and help you to ensure your knowledge and information are as up-to-date, factually accurate, and complete as they can be. Using only print resources for research can be quite limiting. 

We can use digital resources effectively by researching widely rather than referring to only one or two digital resources, and by checking that all resources are current and accurate. It is important to be organized when researching and to keep track of the resources you use for referencing and citation purposes. 

Final Digital Resources Quiz

Question

Briefly explain the term "binary code".

Show answer

Answer

Binary code is a coding system that uses 1s and 0s in different sequences to represent different letters, numbers, and symbols.

Show question

Question

Which of these descriptions best fits with "digital resources"?

Show answer

Answer

Both

Show question

Question

Which of these is NOT a digital resource?

Show answer

Answer

A newspaper

Show question

Question

Can the same resources sometimes be found in digital and analog formats?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, things like books, articles, and newspapers can be found online and in hard copies. 

Show question

Question

Name three different kinds of offline digital resources. 

Show answer

Answer

Video

Images

Audio recording

Show question

Question

What's one reason you should be careful with information found online?

Show answer

Answer

Online information found on websites and blogs might not be factually accurate or updated. You may need to fact-check and cross-reference the information you find to ensure it is reliable and valid. 

Show question

Question

Which of these digital resources could be described as an online journal of thoughts, activities, or opinions?

Show answer

Answer

Blog

Show question

Question

How do search engines work?

Show answer

Answer

You type in your search query and the search engine will search the internet for information matching your keywords. It will then return the most relevant results to you.

Show question

Question

True or false, images are the only digital resource that are made up of pixels.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Briefly describe what a "pixel" is.

Show answer

Answer

Pixels are tiny colorful squares that when purposefully arranged together, create digital images and videos.

Show question

Question

Identify which of these is an advantage of using digital resources in education.

Show answer

Answer

Videos can help students to learn in a dynamic visual way.

Show question

Question

What kind of skills can digital resources help people to improve?

Show answer

Answer

Any from this list: 


  • research skills
  • fact-checking
  • analysis skills
  • fact-finding
  • referencing

Show question

Question

Why might accessing digital resources online be difficult for some people?

Show answer

Answer

Not everyone has access to a computer or the internet, or they may have limited or sporadic access to these resources, making it more challenging to find online resources. 

Show question

Question

Which kind of resource is more interactive?

Show answer

Answer

Digital

Show question

Question

True or false, social media is a great resource for research. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

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