Updated: Apr 26
Yes, facts are real, and yes, research is still a thing. But it just got a lot harder. In the same way that there’s always a counter-argument to every argument; today, there always seems to be a counter-fact for every fact. So what now?
All joking aside, this article is a little less about the facts, and a little more about how to find them. This one is more about how I personally research topics and do my daily informational hunt. Obviously, any method is open to interpretation, but finding trust-worthy facts is quite a universal process now. So, if you're struggling with every internet source shooting different facts about the same things, then you’re in the right place – I hope.
To begin, researching a new topic from start to finish can be a difficult thing. There’s so much information on so many topics. Today, it’s not only about finding the facts, but finding the facts that actually mean something and are somewhat relevant. Depending on the topic this can be hard or easy.
For me, the best place to start is a book.
Don’t be disheartened, books are great. We love books. Here’s why: many books are edited and published by trusted publishers (like Penguin Random House and Harper Collins ), which means that every fact is gospel. Just make sure you pick the right publishers. If you choose the right books, they often have years and years worth of scientific studies and research in them. This can range from psychology books, books on hobbies, healthy eating books and much more. Some examples to avoid would be biographies and content down that road (if you're looking for facts). The best thing to do is read the comments and reviews. I’ll often look up a book and it’ll have reviews scattered everywhere. I highly recommend The Guardian book reviews . One thing I’ve come to find that is quite valuable with books, is that each fact is often backed up by other facts in the book. This is the major difference with online sources. Any particular online source would usually only use one research paper, or factual source, to support its main points. This takes me onto my next step:
Don’t just stop at one article.
We all do it; we get the answers we want on the first thing we read, and then leave it there. That’s a big no-no – don’t do that. When you’re finding facts online, you have to use multiple websites. The more the merrier. If many sites are presenting the same facts that’s often a good thing. However, you’ll want to research the website. I usually find relevant information about the site in the ‘about page’. Have they been certified by companies like TrustArc? Do they have a large team of researchers? Are there professors and PhD graduate students involved? These are all the questions I try asking myself about any particular source that I have come to trust. I’ve found a pretty good example of a website, called ThoughtCo.com . Some other good websites to use are Wikipedia (despite contrary beliefs), Academia.edu and Arxiv.org.
Now that we've passed the major steps, here’s a few more things I personally do, which can generally give me a good indication as to whether or not you should trust a source you're reading. Firstly, if it sounds like an opinion piece, stay away from it (unless that’s what you’re going for). Secondly, I find talking to someone else who might know is a good way to go. Someone who has experience in the area you’re researching can sniff out false information. Thirdly, as I mentioned with the books, your best bet is in the comments. All hail the comments. Fourthly, any facts that a website uses, track them down yourself. Did the fact come from a University study or research paper? Where was the paper published? If it was in a science journal, is the journal quite well established and renowned (much like the Journal for Experimental Social Psychology, Neuron, or even Researcher)? Whenever I can, I also try and aim for a thesis. These are often free for the public, and are worth every ounce of our trust.
That’s pretty much the extent of it. Does it seem like a little bit much if all I’m trying to do is answer a simple question or figure out whether that diet really works? That depends on how important that simple question or that diet is to you. The extent of your research depends on how much the topic matters. In a frustrated tone, I’ve often had people tell me that it’s hard to find any measure of truth online because anyone can post anything as they wish. And that couldn’t be any closer to the truth. But this is how I’ve come to find that little bit of truth among all of the nonsense. It’s really a process of filtering out the useless information.
Thank you very much for reading the article. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions. I’d also like to add; if you have any topics, ideas or questions you’d like me to research and review, send me a text, I would truly love to do it.
Jack, at Interconnected.
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