For most of us, researching a given topic can be daunting. Gone are the days of trawling through a set of physical books in the library, demanding help from the librarian at hand. Instead books are fast becoming replaced with the internet. But the internet, whilst containing a plethora of information, has its pitfalls. Articles can be misleading, distracting or can lead in circles. Procrastination is rife, and tangents can easily get out of hand when one article or site leads on to another and then another. Before you know it, you have spent an hour watching a YouTube video of a cat playing with its tail, which probably bears no relevance to your topic.
So how do you research a topic thoroughly and efficiently? And how do you find reliable and factual information? We will show you.
Begin at the Beginning
It is important to create an outline of the topic, covering the basics points. There is no need to have a specific focus at this time. The reasons why you are researching this topic will influence the search method: a research paper, an essay and an analysis will each require different levels or styles of information. Deciding what type of information you need is the jumping-off point. Once this has been established the preliminary research can commence. Simply searching for basic terms relating to the topic can yield some good starting points, which will usually guide the way towards a focus. As you look further into the topic the focus will define itself, helping to redraw the limits of your search.
Not all sources can be trusted
It is very important to remember that not all sources can be trusted. This is true for books, newspapers and internet sites. On some topics it is easy to find reliable information. On other such as certain financial instruments it can be hard. Lets say you want to write an essay about binary options. A lot of the websites are designed with one goal in mind. To make money. And they are willing to lie to do so. When researching a topic such as this it is very important to only use large reliable websites that feature both positive and negative information about the topic. If you are writing about binary options you might chose to look at broker websites and large reliable websites such as this one and stay away from smaller ones.
It is during the focus part of research where it is most important to find academic or authority sites. The basic search can yield some good general information, but it is vital to find sites that can back it up. Authority sites usually include those such as government sites, universities, newspapers and even a company’s own site. Evaluating the sources is also important. Make sure the sites you are using are offering factual information rather than simple opinions. Opinions of course can be important and facilitate further areas of research, but they need to have good evidence behind them in order to be fully relevant.
The last stage is the organisational part. This can be the most challenging as it requires the information to be collated and sorted into relevant areas. And then citations must be made. This is important for whatever you are writing or researching about as it shows the range and breadth of information that has gone into studying this topic.
It should be noted that whilst this is directed at internet research, if you have access to a library you might find that there are fewer distractions. Of course, not everyone can access a physical library so in this instance it could be a good starting point to go on a digital library such as Google Books and focus the search from there.