11 Jun 2020
3 helpful tips for finding credible sources & saving
time on news archive research
Billions of internet searches are made every day. But how many are made well? Even experienced researchers can find themselves wasting time on inefficient searches that yield questionable results. The problem? Using open web search engines is like second nature for most people, but casual questions about a restaurant’s hours is a far cry from in-depth professional research. The convenience of constant access to search engines combined with the off-hand approach to using them makes it easy to become careless. Better methods of searching can help avoid this trap. These include narrowing the scope of the question, wording it carefully, and choosing the right search engine to use. In all of this, Nexis® for Media Professionals is an excellent resource.
1. Carefully consider the questions you need to answer
Knowing in advance exactly what information is needed and how it will be used makes researching easier and more efficient. It allows you to narrow the search to the specific nugget of data you require, streamlining the process of finding the information so you can move on to higher value tasks. It also helps filter out unnecessary details, helping you reduce wasted effort. In focusing on a particular question, you can concisely define the goals of your research, plan out the direction of your research, and zero in on exactly what you need. These efforts pay off in the long run, proving more efficient than stumbling along searching for data that may or may not prove relevant. Another benefit to this careful thinking is that it provides the perfect opportunity to consider the ideal sources to find the kind of information needed, be it news archives, company and executive information, legal data or public records.
2. Use clear and specific wording
Each word put into a search engine influences the results. While a natural language search—“best restaurants near me”—may get you the results you want from Google, more precise search queries will deliver more relevant results when you’re conducting background research to prepare for an interview or writing a story on a particular person, company or topic of interest. Unnecessary words, such as those whose only purpose is grammatical, serve only to widen the net cast in the search. They lengthen your list of results while lowering the quality. Using Boolean search or specific keywords can target the search for more relevant results. Even when confining the search criteria to keywords, consider carefully whether any of the words could have a different meaning if taken out of the context of the research. All possible meanings need to be considered to avoid clogging the list of results with irrelevant material. The more precise the list, the less time it takes to sort through the results and access the needed information. Also important is the word order. Careless phrasing can negatively affect the usefulness of the information generated. If you’ve ever used a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa, you’ve probably had one of those frustrating moments when the result you get is not remotely what you think you asked for. The more precise your search query is—whether you’re typing it into a search engine or speaking to a smart device—the better your results will be.
3. Choose the appropriate search engine
With a wide variety of search engines from which to choose, how do you choose the best option for your purpose? For simple, straightforward questions with easily verifiable answers, using general search engines may be a reasonable choice. But open web search engines also surface content based on SEO and pay-per-click keywords; your search results may be a hodgepodge of marketing materials and questionable content, which can be particularly frustrating when your combatting fake news. And therein lies the problem. Small pieces of information can form the basis of later research, determining the direction it will take. One inaccurate or misleading bit of information on its own can easily be rectified, but when further research is done based on that information, the damage is compounded, as is the effort it takes to correct it. A powerful research platform like Nexis for Media Professionals focuses on reputable sources for news archives, company information, legal data and more—plus filtering options to fine tune the search parameters to weed out irrelevant information.
- Want more tips for conducting research more efficiently and effectively? Check out our Guide to Quality Research
- Learn more about Nexis and arrange a personalized demo.
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