How to do research

We all know that social media is a tool for information sharing; many newspapers and magazines have Facebook pages. However, there are clickbait sites like Diply that create ridiculous headlines to attract people. UniLAD, Wake Up World and MaximBady tend to be full of conspiracy theories or yellow journalism. Research is a key part of life; most people simply assume that only academics need research skills. But you don’t need to spend hours in a library to fact find. This blog post is dedicated to fact finding and how to know the difference between hype and the real thing.

Mock the Week is a comedy news channel which satirises current news. It’s a news source in the sense that it does actually feature papers’ headlines. However, because it does not present any sources and is designed for humour, it is not a reliable news source. Similarly, Have I got News For You is designed to poke fun at the media and not inform viewers.

Newspapers and magazines: Who do you trust?

Most newspapers are politically biased; with The Times and The Telegraph being right wing and the Guardian and Mirror being left wing. However, some newspapers talk about celebrity news, the latests diets and unusual stories e.g. an unusual illness. Other magazines can be dubious in their findings; even haute couture prints like Harpers Bazaar doesn’t reference any sources. Sites like Mashable may have validity, but are focused more on trends. Safe bets would be The Times and The Independent, since their writing is of a higher calibre than celebrity gossip.

Academic research:

Academic research is done with literature reviews, journals, podcasts and critical essays. Whilst most of us do not write essays after we have finished education, the same sources can still be used for fact finding in everyday life. Academic research is deemed reliable because of primary and secondary research with lots of studies and footnotes. However, some of the research may not be suitable for more vocational industries.

Professional research:

Sites like Mintel, TrendHunter and PSFK have insight into B2B and B2C trends, specifically for businesss and organisations. Articles like these use examples of how products are meeting consumer needs, after evolving from trends. These sites are updated regularly and are more informative than newspaper and magazine articles. because these reports tend to reference their sources, this makes them credible.

On using Wikipedia:

Wikipedia regularly updates its pages and references any sources in footnotes. It used to have a bad reputation in the past, but for certain topics it seems credible. An arts and humanities edition is Encyclopaedia Britannica, discussing literature and art. Encyclopedia Britannica is sometimes favoured more because it was originally a print publication.

As a fiction writer:

Visiting locations for book settings, reading fiction of the same genre, watching films and plays live are all forms of research. Going deeper, this could involve chatting to experts on authors, reading up on historical eras the story is set in

An unbiased view:

Full Fact is a charity dedicated to debunking urban myths. Similar to Snopes.com, Full Fact focuses on news and campaigns such as the law, politics, current topics such as Brexit and crime rates. The nonprofit uses graphs, footnotes and external links to evidence its sources. Full Fact is a useful nonprofit because it is accessible to all, and is publicised on social media platforms such as Facebook. Full Fact is similar to Snopes.com, but only covers British news. Unlike studies published in newspapers, FullFact does not take a left or right wing stance , and nor does it base its views on “reader polls” for opinions.

So, the next time you see a status on Facebook saying that Facebook will start charging money, or Donald Trump tweeting about his nuclear war button, think before you post!

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