Don’t tell me you never had the fantasy of just having every material that you could use for your studies ready and waiting for you! I know I had. But when I was at college the idea was just a dream that I never thought would come true. Now it is very real and available for everyone out there, especially for ever-busy students.
In the current world of information technology where new products and services pop out every week the necessity to be up-to-date with the Big Data becomes as urgent as ever and many people are relying on the Internet for crucial information on almost every important decision in their lives. As such, data scraping services have become very important to many people and institutions as a way of obtaining information for reasons they see fit: as a matter of fact, web scraping advances your research in three crucial ways: it covers as much data as possible, does it quickly and hands it to you in an organized format.
But in case you skipped “scraping 101”, let’s go through its essence and functionality once again. Web scraping is the process of taking unstructured information from web pages and turning it into structured information that can be used in a subsequent stage of analysis: this is the shortest way to put it and it’s as simple as it gets.
However, in order to be able to use this technique to benefit in your educational research you will need to learn quite a lot to understand the language the web pages are written in and take some steps in programming language Python.
If you don’t want to hire a scraping service and are determined that you can figure out all for yourself, you need to do the following:
- First, you need to get a book on how to program Python. Most university libraries should have a couple of books on that subject.
- Second, you will have to obtain a scraping software or use an online tool (that comparably are limited in functions)
- Third, you will need to learn how to organize the scraped material in the desired format that will be useful (excel, csv, google spreadsheet, jpg, pdf, mscz)
Having this tool in your skill box will undeniably help you get considerable advantage amongst your peers when it comes to research. Below we will narrow it down and discuss 2 solid reasons to use web data scraping for educational purposes and talk about the ways you can make it effective and useful.
1. Massive database of information
Saying that there is a lot of information on the net will be saying nothing at all. The Internet contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever faster, ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and facilitate the learning process. And all those processes will start by simplifying the incorporation of this information into education. Although much of this information is very often extremely useful, it’s very rarely in a form you can use directly in your essays or school assignments. As a result, many people spend hours and hours copying and pasting text or numbers into Excel spreadsheets or Word documents. That’s a really inefficient way of doing this – and sometimes the sheer volume of information makes this manual gathering of information impossible.
There is a better way! It’s called scraping the web. It involves writing computer programs to do automatically what we do manually when you select, copy, and paste. It’s more complicated than copying and pasting because it requires you to understand the language the Web is written in, and a programming language. But web scraping is a very, very useful skill, and makes impossible things possible making you a better and more achieving student on its way.
2. Saving valuable time
Perhaps one of the reasons web scraping was invented in the first place was to save time. Students always lack it and with a handy skill like web scraping they can manage the unmanageable. Make sense of a huge amount of data in a short time and possibly use it to do research or write papers. Harvesting and collecting articles is especially ideal for conducting research, obtaining ideas for content creation or for rewriting articles to form new and unique articles.
Imagine you are assigned to do research on human behavior. A topic that has been extensively researched and published. If you decide to dedicate weeks on hand-picking articles you are interested in and copying them you will be wasting a lot of valuable time to conduct a task that can be complete in a couple of hours if you scrape the content from internet’s vast database or hire a service that will do it for you. That will free-up valuable time, which, I’m sure as a student can quickly be filled with performing other important tasks. It is even possible to mass translate articles into another language in just seconds (a lot of web scraping services offer that).
Here we are: nowadays web scraping is becoming more and more desirable and easy to carry out in the field of education. With the help of data harvesting, massive information database becomes available in no time and students can spend their time concentrating on more creative problem solving rather than manual and repetitive information gathering: at the same time the cost of web harvesting services has reduced considerably in the last period, which makes it even more appealing.
How else has web scraping helped you in your education? Please comment below and let us know about it!