Saturday, 25 August 2018

Get your facts straight: 7 tips for conducting online research like a pro



There’s a lot of information out there.

The internet is a wondrous thing, especially if you're researching for a project or article. The only problem: it's a largely open forum, which means anyone can post anything without having to validate it.

So, if you want to be credible, you need to be careful.


Use online information wisely.

Here are my top 7 tips for conducting online research like a pro.

1. Don't believe everything you read.
According to a website I just found, 70 percent of the information on the Internet is incorrect. Err... wait a second, there's another site here that says 50 percent is untrue – and this one says it's 85 percent. But which one should I believe?

In an ironic way, this proves a point about the validity of the information found on some websites — you can't always trust it.


2. Back up all your claims.
Following on from tip one, the amount of fake news and misinformation out there is unquantifiable. Many people have been burned by things they have shared or quoted that have turned out to be untrue. Many more people have seen this happen to others.

As a result, people are generally more cautious and questioning when dealing with new information.

To build your readers' trust you need to back up your bold — and even your not-so-bold — claims with evidence. But not just any evidence, as I'm about to explain.



3. Use credible sources.
Readers like to be able to trust the information they are presented with, so only use information from reputable sources. 

The websites of quality newspapers, magazines and periodicals; respected broadcasters, public bodies and industry experts are all reputable sources.   


4. But beware of bias.
Remember that, apart from statistics and quantifiable information, anything you read that is written by another person is subject to their views and their interpretation. 

Try to use the research findings to form your own conclusions and remember to justify them.


5. Get to the original source of the information.
You won't impress or convince anyone if you say you got your information from Fred Bloggs' blog.

But if Fred Bloggs has said where his information came from, you can go back to his original source and quote that.

Sometimes there may be several layers. For example if Fred Bloggs got his information from John Smith's blog, and he got his information from Louise Jones' blog — but she got her information from the BBC, you should cite the BBC article, because that's the original source.


6. Check your information is current and viable.
If the information you're using is subject to change, you should always check the date and make sure it's still current and relevant. 

Whether or not it's still valid will depend on the nature of the information and how old it is. For example, information on a fast-changing subject, like confidence tricks or new online scams, can become outdated very quickly.

Also, be aware that, since it was published, what you're quoting may have been:
  • Superseded by more recent information
  • Changed by a recent happening or event
  • Discredited or called into question


7. Credit your sources
If you've used an outside source to create your content, always give credit. Crediting your sources adds value and credibility to your own work and will protect you against any claims of plagiarism.

You can give credit by listing the source and its date in your references list. 

Or, if your content is to be published online, by including a clickable link to the source in your article. It might look something like this:

According to the RSPB blog, installing a moderate sized pond in your garden will attract dragonflies. 

The link here doesn't actually work, it's just for illustration purposes. But if it did work, and the reader clicked on it, it would take them to the specific page of the RSPB blog where I found the information.

Set links like this to open in a new tab, if you can. This way, if your reader clicks the link to read the source information and gets sidetracked, they will still have your site open in the previous tab.


Do you need high quality, well researched content for a forthcoming blog or project?

Maybe I can help you.

I am an experienced copywriter with more than 18 years' professional writing experience. I have conducted research on all kinds of subjects and for all kinds of clients.

If you would like to find out more about me, my work or how I could help you, please visit my website or send me an email.

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