If you peer into the heart of a great article, you’ll find it being kept alive from lede to conclusion by thorough research. And while access to information is easier, digging through the massive amounts available can be difficult, time consuming and frustrating. Simply tweaking a few already used tools will yield quicker, quality, in-depth information.
1. Google Tweaks
A big source of info and debate is how best to use this vast resource. One thing to keep in mind while doing a Google search is the items that are listed first are not necessarily the best on the subject and are, at the least, the most mined and over-used sources. Enhance your search by:
- Carefully choosing keywords. “Association,” “organization,” “university,” “trade publication,” “magazine,” and “statistics” are a few keywords that when added to your subject, will help you get to expert sources while weeding out the noise.
- Move beyond the first two pages. “Google-juice” can be signs of authority or signs of a good marketing department experienced in SEO.
- Utilize the other categories Google has available: scholar, books, video, blog search.
2. Twitter Tweaks
Unlike Facebook, Twitter users can see everyone a user is following. If you are looking for experts in a field or other publications, check the people an expert is following. This allows you to branch out deeper into their contacts. Now, you still have to use your own resources to get in touch with them, but this goes a step beyond simply asking your source for their recommendations.
3. LinkedIn Introductions
The introduction feature on LinkedIn is incredibly useful to gaining access to sources. When asking for an introduction, be sure to write that you’re writing an article, post on whatever subject. The drawback to this feature is if you do not have a contact in common, you’ll have to use InMail which is a paid service.
4. Check the footnotes.
White papers, academic articles, even Wikipedia, always have a nice footnote section detailing where they got their information. The kooky thing about academic papers is they have footnotes and those sources have footnotes and it can be interesting to see how far the rabbit hole goes.
5. Who would disagree with you?
I’ve written before about asking interview subjects for recommendations on additional sources, but it’s important to remember they are likely to recommend both those they respect in the subject and those with whom they share similar opinions. Ask the questions that will lead to a well-rounded approach to your information gathering.
While research is the key to a great article, the options and information available can be overwhelming. Using standard search tools more efficiently will help cut through the noise of psuedo-experts and misinformation. Keep in mind, the tools are easy to use, but there are no shortcuts for doing the work. Once you cut through the big mounds you still have to take out the hand shovel and soft brush to excavate the really good nuggets of information. Go get ’em!
What’s your favorite research resource?