Researching is the first step in writing a professional document. It is so important that you, as a writer know where to go for the information you are looking for. Most of the time you would not trust a personal website for credible information. Here is a quick guide to help to decide where to go for different types of information.
First of all, you need to decipher between a primary and a secondary source. A primary source is a source you can rely on completely. Primary sources are sources that provide information in “its original form.” Secondary sources provide information from primary sources, but the source tweaks it a bit. The authors of Technical Communication describe it as “interpreting, evaluating, summarizing, describing, or commenting on them.” I like to think of it has secondary sources getting their information from primary sources.
The World Wide Web – the internet is a great source of information if it is used correctly. Search engines, such as Google, or the newest one, Bing, are great assistants. The internet is great for finding secondary sources but there are a few down falls to it as well. Much of the information is unreliable. Anyone, anywhere can post information on the internet. Be sure the author is a credible author if you are going to use information from him or her. Also, beware of a website trying to charge you for information. Many newspaper websites charge for a dated article. Do not fall for that; your local library will most likely have old newspapers on record. Databases are also very helpful, and are full of scholarly resources.
Intranets – an intranet is an internet that is meant for one place, for example your work place may have an intranet. If you are writing a document pertaining to work, it is very likely you will find relevant, and credible information on your intranet. Give it a shot!
Books – okay, I know this is old school, but books still contain great information! It is possible to view many book online, but believe it or not, I find navigating through a physical is easier than the electronic version.
There are ways to conduct your own research as well…
Observing – observing something yourself gives you the advantage of that first hand information. You will not rely on someone else’s evaluation when observing something on your own.
Interview and Surveys – one of the most common things on television is interviews. You are able to focus on what you are looking for and will get the information straight from the source you are interviewing. Surveys are on a larger level and also allow you to construct it towards the information you want.
Experimenting – conducting an experiment allows you to test, and gain information on what it is that you are looking for.
There is so much out there that you need to be thourough and use the sources to your advantage. Also, keep in mind you can find your own research first hand by simply observing. Happy researching!