Reckless Research is Risky

Imagine, right now, you are whisked away from your current location and dropped in a random city. Once there you are told you have ten minutes to figure out how to get to public transportation.   You’re alone, confused and possibly hungry and thirsty (depending on when you ate your last meal), and you must act quickly. 

What do you do first?  How do you make this decision?

If you decide to ask for help, who and what do you ask?

Have you made any assumptions?   Is it possible that the person you’ve asked is may be biased or untruthful in their response?

Recklessly entering keywords into the Google search box is a lot like asking a random person in an unfamiliar city for help and assuming that whatever he or she tells you is accurate.

Preparation is everything when you’re doing research.

A good researcher is one that understands the possibility of source bias, and works to mitigate risks through the construction of a taxonomy, deliberate selection of keywords, search engines and databases.

A taxonomy is a list of all possible terms and expressions that can get you closer to the answers you need.   For example: house= dwelling, bricks and mortar, residence, domestic architecture, apartment, condominium.

Keywords are words or groups of words (drawn from your taxonomy) that are used in searches to generate hits.  Note: these keywords can appear anywhere on the pages or in links to the websites in your search results.

Perhaps the most critical piece to this entire post- is to use multiple search engines .  Search engines only index a very small percentage of the web.  The results you get when you use Google, Yahoo or Bing is only a small fraction of what’s out there on the surface web. A good rule of thumb is use at least three and to triangulate your results.

Use of multiple databases should provide access to information in the deep web.  Westlaw, Lexis, and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service are three excellent examples of sources that can direct you to deep web material.

Don’t just trust me on this, go behind the curtain with Matt over at Google –

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