There’s nothing worse than paying $100 for a book that’s going to make your life miserable (I’m thinking of you, Organic Chemistry). In some cases, you might think that you’re actually finding it interesting, but it’s probably Stockholm Syndrome. Once rescued from your hostage takers by the sweet December holiday break, you won’t want to see that book ever again.
That’s where sites like AbeBooks come in. You can buy used copies for a fraction of the regular price, or older editions that are even cheaper. In most cases, older editions are practically identical to new ones, except for a few diagrams. When you’re finished, sell the books back to the site.
Rate My Professors is the RottenTomatoes.com of the academic world: you can’t trust it absolutely, but it’s useful more often than not. Just remember that when someone writes, “This professor sux bawls, DO NOT TAKE HIS CLASS!” it’s probably not an objective assessment of that professor’s teaching abilities. Sort of like when Rotten Tomatoes gives an action movie a bad score because “it lacks human depth — abandoning character development for shoot-outs and car chases.”
Google Scholar is just like regular Google, except the results are all journal articles. Need a reference that explains the metabolism of a certain species of bacteria? Check Google Scholar. In most cases, multiple versions of the article are listed, so if you have trouble accessing one of them (sometimes you need to pay a fee), you may find another version for free. You can also try a Google book search. You don’t usually have complete online access to the books, but you can often do a preview of the pages you need.
OMGUW is a place where students submit short, anonymous “OMGs” (Oh My God!). You can complain about your ridiculously long essay, that stupid diagram in your lab report, or your annoying roommate. The moderators of the site post the best OMGs, and then other users leave comments. If it sounds like a complete waste of time, that’s because it is. But it’s fun. The site was created by students at the University of Waterloo (hence the UW), but anyone can post.
Wikipedia is an unsung hero for millions of lab reports, essays, and term papers. It’s true that if you include Wikipedia in your list of references, most professors will rip your essay in half, set the pieces on fire, and then dump the charred remains into the garbage can. But it’s still valuable. Use it to launch your research, by following the links and information to sources that are more credible (and that don’t earn you a zero).