Remember how we said your mission at Epicodus is to learn how to learn? Learning how to learn means being able to teach yourself something new. Part of being good at teaching yourself something new is knowing how to research questions online. So, in this lesson we’re going to review a few tools to give you a foundation for your research, debugging, and exploration.
Take note that everything you need to be successful while at Epicodus is in LearnHowToProgram.com. However, if you just follow our lessons as is, you’re not going to create many memorable portfolio pieces. While you are at Epicodus, it is your mission to embrace the opportunity to do further exploration and develop your own interests within web development.
There are a ton of resources on the web for developers at every level. Not only are there dedicated sites that offer free guides, tutorials, and references on computer programming tools, there are…
The best way to get to know these tools is through general research via a search engine. While Google is the most popular search engine, any search engine will do! Let’s review some things to keep in mind as you are using search engines.
1. Include specific technical terminology in your search query.
For example if you want to figure out how to do something in markdown, include “markdown” in your search query. Now consider this search query: “list multiple classes for html class attribute”. Notice that we’ve included the specific technical terminology “html class attribute” which specifies the markup language (html) and the target (class attribute).
Sometimes you won’t know the exact right technical terminology to use. In this case, you can do an initial search to find the right technical term, and then a second search for what you want to do. Or, you can just try your best to explain what you want to do. Ask your peers or teacher for help in formulating a good search query.
2. Use search engine tools to filter and refine your search.
Search engines provide tools to filter and refine your search in a few ways:
To learn more about how to refine your search queries with Google, visit these Google docs:
3. Vet the resource you are using.
If you are using a new and unfamiliar site, it’s important to take some time to learn about the site and determine how reputable it is. If it’s unclear how reputable a site is, it’s best to find multiple sources that corroborate any solution that you use in your code. It’s common for there to be multiple ways of doing the same thing in code: some of these ways could use deprecated tools or methods, while others may be experimental or tied to only a specific version of a tool you are using.
Stack Overflow (SO) is a very popular site for developers to post coding questions and receive help from other developers. The questions can be general, theoretical, or specific to a bug in a coding project. The developers who answer the questions on SO could be any of the following:
Epicodus students don’t generally post on Stack Overflow, but instead reference posts that are on it. As you review SO posts, there’s a few things to keep in mind:
Next, we’ll review a few specific websites that offer detailed references for web development tools. Instead of doing general searches on Google, you can try searching specifically within these sites.
W3Schools is an organization that creates references and tutorials on various computer programming tools so that anyone can learn how to code for free. Epicodus students most often use the reference pages on W3Schools. A reference page lists all tools, or all the details of a tool. For example, if we navigate to the HTML reference, we’ll be taken to a list of all HTML elements that we can peruse and learn more about. Did you know that there is a
CSS Tricks contains articles with guides on how to use various CSS tools and general CSS news. For Epicodus students, CSS Tricks pops up most often when they research how to do different things with CSS, like:
If you are looking for a reference on CSS tools, you will have better luck with W3Schools or MDN Web Docs.
There are many markdown cheat sheets and guides out there. A popular tool is Markdown Guide, which itself has tutorials and reference pages.
Becoming comfortable understanding and navigating documentation, references, and other resources for computer programming online can be daunting and frustrating at first. However, the only way to get better at online research is by doing it, both by creating search queries and exploring the documentation sites. If you are having a hard time researching, understanding documentation, or developing a good search query, talk to your teacher about it.