How to actually “do your own research”
I am a librarian.
What this means, besides being a familiar and famous quote from The Mummy (1999) starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz is that I have extensive formal training in research. Of course, I will google something like “What is the name of this character actor who is still Mafia Goon Number Two” or “When was Benjamin Banneker’s birthday”, as these are immediate facts that can be revealed by simple research. But Google is layered around search engine optimization and ad money, and sometimes more complex answers get lost under ads and keywords.
What does this mean for the average person doing their own research?
This means that you can definitely get a answer your question, but you may not get the right answer or even all the right information, especially if you click on the first link in your results or even if you stay on the first page. i won’t say that nothing available to read on the free web is okay when doing advanced and in-depth research on complex topics. But a lot of the things that you are going to find, especially if you are not aware of your own confirmation bias, will only answer the question in the way that you expect.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve gone from “It’ll never reach the United States” to “It’s like a bad flu” to “social distancing” to “wear your mask” to “get the vaccine” to “tout est findog.jpg” – and at every step of the way, people opposed to following the mandates or even the recommendations of the CDC or the WHO have announced their intention to do their own research. Many of us have asked âwhat does this even meanâ? Also: what kind of research are you doing that these highly educated scientists haven’t done? (We may talk at another point about how education does not indicate meaning, as we look at people with MDs, JDs, PhDs, and other diplomas completely skip the shark.)
Well if you really want to To do your own research and not just validate your reasons for not doing something, here are some tips for accessing the scientific or policy information you’ll need. authoritative information.
Use your library card – or get one
There are several options for searching libraries in your community. Everything from a public library to local universities, community colleges, and even some specialty libraries, will offer access to their online databases, which are much easier to update than print publications. These databases, like PubMed and Web of Science, will include medical articles announcing the results of studies conducted outside the political arena, before the results can be used to decide policy.
Even if you don’t have access to libraries with pockets deep enough to acquire scientific journals, chances are they’ve maintained a repository of COVID-specific information for people in your area. ProQuest in particular has a collection dedicated to COVID that they have donated to institutions. But you can also use what has been made available to you – even the smallest regional libraries should have at least one version of a database package with general authoritative information. And if they don’t, then move on to the next option.
Know your sources
Once upon a time, when I was learning the basics of teaching information literacy, the free web wasn’t quite the level of the Wild West that it is now. It was likely that if you ventured out to a website with a .org suffix, it was a reliable resource for valid information. Nowadays, anyone can create a .org site and put whatever they want, whether it’s the truth or the fake news.
So you have to do a little more research to find out exactly who gives you that information. What organization (and you generally want something maintained by an organization) is behind this? Are they a credible organization, maybe an organization of neuroscientists? Or something like the Mayo Clinic? You can also trust a .gov site to give you exact policy information, or if you are looking for studies and results from places like the National Institutes of Health or MedLine Plus. All of this will not always be peer reviewed like journal articles in research databases, but it will deliver information provided with good intention.
If you must, use Google Scholar
Google Scholar (scholar.google.com, since it no longer appears only as one of the filtering options) will collect articles, mostly peer-reviewed, that have been made available on the web for free in the framework of open access journals and repositories. . Much of this information goes through the same process as that on something like Web of Science, but is provided free to readers. Much more scientific information has found its way into the open access market in recent years, as academics and other researchers have discovered problems with the huge paid academic journals and databases. These you may also need to do more research on – who writes them? What is their background? What are the publication responsibilities when selecting articles and authors? The lack of a paywall is often a sign that these journals and repositories were started as passionate projects or school projects, which means there are fewer steps an article can go through. So use your results in Google Scholar, but read carefully, read citations, and verify your information.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what to believe. Science is constantly evolving, and comparing the research of six months ago to what might be published tomorrow to form any trap moment is not the way science and scientific writing work. . Try to read the most recent information, acknowledging the levels of previous research done to reach these conclusions. And always ready to recognize the writer’s prejudices as well as your own.
Trust the person who has been teaching information literacy to college and high school students, librarians and library staff, and the general public for over a decade – there are ways to find information verifiable and authoritative on scientific research and national and international policies. You just have to know where – and where not – to concern.
Just, whatever you do, don’t be that guy. Your librarian will thank you.