Research Shortcuts

By Alina Chase

You know how driving shortcuts go: they often end up costing more time than what seems like the slow route. The same is true for research shortcuts. While it seems expedient to start by scanning whatever Goggle spits out, how many sites do you end up cruising through before finding information that might be both current and credible? (Hint: if Bob’s blog doesn’t cite sources for facts and statistics, move on!)

Along with Bob’s blog and sites with something to sell, About.com and Wikipedia usually top the list of returns. I love both sites for quick definitions and overviews, but for detailed research, I’ve often looped endlessly through articles’ links and sources only to hit a dead end. While there’s nothing wrong with starting with either site—and I’m sure you have favorite quick stops too—you may save time (and credibility) in the end by beginning with resources like the 3 below, instead of double checking (or not double checking) other authors’ research:

1-Polls & Surveys

Why rely on second- (or third- or fourth-) hand facts and statistics when you can go straight to the source for so much of what’s reported in the media? Harris Interactive and Gallup sites require no sign-up to search recent poll & survey reports and extensive archives.

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/

http://www.gallup.com/home.aspx

2-ScienceDaily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/

Non-nerdy summaries of research findings cover everything from archaeology to artificial intelligence, from bacteria to bullying… You get it–scientists study everything! This is a great source for both credible information and creative triggers.

3-USA Mega-site

http://www.usa.gov/

Just like science, can you think of anything Uncle Sam doesn’t touch? You’ll find census data, nutrition guidance, UFO research, etc., etc. Plus you’ll find some things you may not expect, like public domain photos of everything from state parks to sausage links. You’ll even find sausage recipes (but you may not be interested after reading sausage research). And how about talking to an expert? You can search for contact information as well. So consider making this your first stop for reliable information. If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, at least it won’t be a wasted trip—you can also download tax forms while you’re there.

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