To become skilled researcher, step number one is learning how to craft the answerable question.
There are open-ended questions and factual questions. Open-ended questions or subjective and factual questions are not.
Open-ended questions are more sophisticated and sometimes require special education or training to answer coherently and you’ll need to know who the experts are and how to contact them.
Never compile information yourself – someone has already done it.
When you’re evaluating a resource, take into the account the sources inevitable bias, even when it’s presenting seemingly factual information.
Double sourcing is a way to check that information appears to be solid actually is.
Look at internal references, take note of credentials, check backlinks, always ask for more info.
Skepticism (not cynicism) is the ally of the researcher.
Tenacity is as much a tool in successful research as curiosity and intelligence.
Google and the Deep Web
Many users overlook the far more powerful advanced search feature. It does not comprehensively search the deep web and misses more than it finds, it’s great for simple searches but many do not critically evaluate the answers.
Searchable databases and their content is the bread and butter of good research.
Advanced Search (under the gear icon)
- Use quotes for verbatim terms.
- Hyphen to eliminate pages w/ words
- Pipe Symbol [|] means OR
- * = wild card
- Brackets “” = whatever inside is taken literally
- Find inside a link = inurl: Adam, or allinurl: Adam Baseball
Site/domain search filer is the most powerful and useful. To limit results to government websites, type “diabetes” site:.gov
To find the list of any top-level domain go to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Search Site Filter
To search specific sites, type “necklace” site:Tiffanys.com
***Much more on page 50 of the book***
To look at a page one session before the current one, click on the label “cached.”
Even with the Internet, a library and its resources still play a critical role in most research projects.
Get a library card.
Special interest libraries, like librarians at the Baseball Hall of Fame, can help.
Reference Collection of Your Own
They know their business.
An association is a repository of knowledge for a specific subject and can be counted on to deliver a credible point of view.
Get facts, studies and reports, advocacy data, statistics, spokespeople, referrals to interview subjects, and additional information.
Web search: associations “your subject”
Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) of 1994 prohibits personal information contained within driver’s records except for some certain uses.
Vital records, like birth and death certificates are off-limits. But the CDC maintains a publication of where you can access your own vital records.
Credit Reports and bank records are off-limits to the public- only people with a legally-defined purpose can access them. (Only when extending credit, renting an apartment, or screening employees.)
Salaries can be viewed on salary.com and bureau of labor statistics. Public corporation officers salaries can be guessed by viewing SEC’s EDGAR database.
Search for licensed professionals by state.
Find the expert, find the answer.
To find celebrities and famous people, check WhoRepresents? Or WhoRepsMusic? And WhoRepsSports?
ObitCentral is a good service that culls information from cemetery records obituaries death notices and immigration records dating back to the 1700s. And Find-a-Grave.
Social Security Death Index also tells death records.
Company and Business Research
The first step in company research is to determine the type of company you’re looking at.
If you’re looking up public companies, the EDGAR database tells you multitudes of information about the organization. Familiarizing yourself with that database and learning how to come through it’s documents are critically important.
If you got to pick one single Edgar document to revise the best portrait of a company, you choose form 10-K.
Public corporations take their passes every 13 weeks to monitor how the business is doing and share that information with the wider world. That comes in the form of a 10-Q.
The eight-K is a hodgepodge of reportable events, so you’ll never know exactly what you’ll be getting until you look.
In short, form 990 is the window into the operation of tax-exempt organizations.
Every Private Eye knows there is a treasure trove of factual information hiding in plain sight in documents and databases maintained by public agencies. Public records can tell stories that other sources can’t.
Public records are categorized in three ways: 1. records that anyone can look at, 2. records that are available for inspection by anyone who can prove illegal need to see them, and 3. records that a public agency doesn’t really make public but must be disclosed when asked.
You will leave a paper trail all through your life:
- Birth certificate
- School records, phone number in the phonebook
- Drivers license
- Voter registration roll
- College Diploma or military record, discharge documents
- Marriage certificate for divorce decree
- Mortgage lien
- Professional license, like pilot license
- Court records, jail records
- Bankruptcy filings
- Death certificate
County clerks offices are rich hunting grounds for factual information, particularly liens and real estate records.