Has your editor ever told you to write a piece about something you know nothing about? No problem. With a few simple tricks, you can become an expert on almost anything.
Google is a great source to use in familiarizing yourself with a topic, and it has many functions most people are unaware of.
“I watch how people are using their tools,” said Daniel M. Russell, research scientist at Google. “They think they are good at it, but many could be better at researching with just a few simple tricks.”
In the session, “How to Become an Instant Expert Through Google,” Russell outlined the basic Google-skills every journalist should have. He explained how to locate relevant materials for learning about a domain quickly, through a collection of research strategies and tactics.
“Domain” = general topic area
- Learn the definition and origin of the term, this will help you get started on where to research the topic further.
- If you choose to use Wikipedia, do not ignore the references at the bottom of the page.
- It can be a good idea to search for online communities that are linked to your domain. For example, support groups, blogs, or other online communities can lead to great insights.
- Switch modality – do not only search for text. Do also an image- and video-search, some visuals can be worth more than a million words.
- Do not forget about your librarian. Ask-a-librarian is a wonderful service which is free and widely available. They are a special community of people who know where things are hidden.
- Google Scholar is the collection of scholar literature.
- Google alerts allow you to get an e-mail every time something is published in scholar that includes the domain of your interest.
- Sorting out your search by file-type will limit the scope of what returns to you. Examples can be (if your term is machine intelligence for instance): “machine intelligence” overview filetype: ppt OR filetype.pptx. The same trick applies to government sites: “machine intelligence” overview filetype: ppt OR site.:gov.
The website Reddit can also be a helpful resource:
“If you upload a photo of an insect on Reddit wondering what it is, I can almost guarantee that someone will give you the answer within three minutes. But please do not do it if you don’t have to, though – insects are horrible.” Russell laughs.
Leonida Reitano, chairman of the Investigative Journalism Organization in Italy found the presentation of search-methods very useful.
Daniel Russell’s Blog, Search Research
The authors are journalism students at the University College of Volda who are on special assignment covering #gijc15.