I recently took on a fairly hefty project for a client that required a bit of research in several key areas. When I took on the job, I knew there would be some research needed but I had no idea how “onionesque” this project would be. Onionesque = many layers, made me cry a little, kinda stinks.
Thinking about it though, in the age of Google I’ve little right to complain. Type a few choice words in a search bar and I’ve got literally thousands of options for where to go next. Think about trying to do this 25 years ago. Trips to the library, looking through reel after reel of microfische films. Not sure I would have the intestinal fortitude to stick with it. Maybe this is why clients only want to pay us $2 per 500 word article. But that’s another story.
When I look through the Google results I pretty much stick with the first page. I hate to be that way but generally I find that relevancy takes a steep dive as soon as I reach page 2. The first thing I do is narrow my choices by disregarding anything that looks like an advertisement. After that, I look for a URL that I know or trust. Usually that is going to leave me with several choices.
Almost always, I avoid Squidoo, Hub and any other question/answer based pages. Depending on what I am researching, I may have a peek at these but quite often I’m not happy with the depth or breadth of the answers. As a rule, I also will save Wikipedia as a last resort. Sorry, but I have trust issues with pages that any ol’ bloke can weigh in on.
I’m usually able to find one good source in my initial search. If it is a particularly good source, it will end up having links to other areas of exploration. I bookmark the heck out of the whole lot and I’m set. Which reminds me, I *really* need to organize my bookmarks.
One of the things that I have as an advantage is having done this stuff for a few years. I have a number of colleagues I can call on. If my question falls into their area of expertise, I can just shoot them an email and I’m good. That’s pretty cool and a tremendous time saver.
Of course my other favorite research resource is the library. I had a client recently who wanted help with a pretty specific book project but he didn’t know the exact style he was looking for. I went to the library and picked up a dozen or so titles and we were able to narrow things down quite nicely.
What is your research like? Do you just “Google” away or are other methods more your style?