I needed to find data for an article I was writing on a very specific subject, and it turned out to be a psychotic search day. As a writer, the ability to find accurate data online is an enormous advantage. Think back to the days when writers trundled off to research a subject at the library – it wasn’t that many years ago.
Data found in a library is usually out-of-date and less relevant, so that’s not where I go for data to read and use in my articles. Don’t get me wrong! I love libraries and enjoy reading real books – but not when I am researching articles. I go to Google, and my guess is that you probably do too.
Some days, it seems almost impossible to find relevant answers to a question or search term, and it is not Google’s fault. The subject may be so arcane that I am unable to quickly come up with the correct search term to find useful data without trying various iterations.
My hat is off to Google for doing their best to make the user experience better. It IS better. But there are those days when finding accurate data from trusted sources makes me wig out, mostly because I know the data can be found but I can’t find it fast enough to suit me. As finding data usually takes just seconds, if it takes more than five minutes, it becomes super-annoying. I like to work fast.
Tips for Better Searching
If you are having a psychotic search day, I have found several ways to shorten the process that may help you.
First, if no relevant sites appear on the SERP page, alter your search term. For me, I want data that is recent – never from years in the past. It is there… somewhere. Add the year (for instance, 2014) to your search to narrow it down. I like to get data from scholarly articles and studies from respected researchers. If you find an article that references one of these studies, use the study rather than the article for your data source.
You can use terms such as “study on [subject],” or “research on [subject]” to find scholarly articles, research studies and news stories that can direct you to a source that is worthy.
Once you find articles, it is likely that you will struggle to understand the study. These research studies often use the terminology that only makes sense to professionals in the field (medical, scientific, etc.) Yikes. I always search the meanings of words before I continue reading, and if you don’t, you will be in trouble.
Using trusted sources is incredibly important for writing good pieces. Articles or studies published in professional journals, at colleges and universities, by government agencies and other similar groups work best. Media sources can be good too, and very helpful in identifying the source data.
There are various governmental agencies that provide statistical data that can be valuable for your piece.
Once you have solved your search problem, remember that writing a piece that has an original voice, is well organized, easy to read, and provides real answers to questions posed by users is the most important issue of all.