How to Root Your Content in Quality Research
If you’ve ever been on the internet, you probably know by now that a lot of the articles and blogs you find contain false information and lazy research. Plagiarism is rampant, and companies often publish content for SEO purposes only without providing any true value for readers. Written content however should provide value to the audience, and it is only valuable if the information is reliable. How do you make sure your online content provides valuable and accurate information? Quality research.
Quality research provides an audience with traceable information. Letting readers know where you found the information used to write a blog highlights transparency and trustworthiness in your brand. Instead of writing content based solely on your understanding of a topic, or based on low quality secondary sources of information, try to base your content on primary sources.
Primary and Secondary Sources
Primary sources can be websites, documents, or even pictures that provide first hand information on a topic. For example, if you were writing a blog about RS Digital, a primary source of information would be our website, or an interview with our staff.
A secondary source example would be an article that someone who is not associated with RS wrote about our company. The most reliable source of information on RS would be the primary source because it comes directly from our company. The secondary source may not be completely accurate or may have biases.
If a primary source is not available, it is very important to find trustworthy secondary sources. For example, the hyperlink above on “Primary sources” links to the website of the University of California, Irvine. Although it is a secondary source, leading universities or educational institutions are generally reliable sources of accurate information.
How Do I Find Quality Sources?
Finding primary or trustworthy sources is not difficult by any means, you just have to know what to look for. Finding unreliable and sensationalized content is way too easy. So here are some tips for doing better research. First, look up your topic and see what other people have written about it. If these articles link to or list their sources (that’s a good sign), follow the links to check them out. This is just to get an idea of what is out there, where the information is coming from, and what is missing that could be included in your content.
Next, look for articles and studies published in scientific journals or other primary sources. For example, if you are writing an article about The Constitution of the United States, use the official transcription of the document on the National Archives website as a primary source instead of referencing a blog on a website that does not have authority on the subject (secondary source). Although secondary sources may provide different perspectives or additional information, your main argument should be rooted in primary sources.
References are Important
Avoid getting information from articles that don’t provide any references or cited works. Even the most respected scientific journal articles often include reference lists over 100 sources long. This article published in Pharmacological Reviews, about the Endocannabinoid System, has over 1300 cited references. The more credible sources identified, the better the research, and therefore, the more reliable the information.
Who Authored the Source?
Make sure you know who is providing the information. Is the author or company reliable and do they have a good reputation? Keep in mind any biases the author may have. What is their intention or motive for writing the piece and do they have relevant experience? Government websites such as the FDA website are the most reliable sources of information about government policies.
Reputable companies and news sources such as The Washington Postor The New York Times also provide information that is reviewed by editors and is research based. A personal lifestyle blog entitled ‘5 Ways to Lower Cholesterol!’ is much less trustworthy compared to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, entitled “Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement.”
TIPS FOR QUALITY RESEARCH
- Look up what other people have written on the topic you’re covering
- Investigate the sources other people have used for their content
- Make a list of any additional questions you have that were not answered in their content
- Look for articles and studies on your topic which are published in ‘peer reviewed’ journals
- Find ‘primary resources,’ or content that comes directly from the authority of the information
- For example, information about government policies should be found on government run websites or government publications
- Make sure the author is a reliable source of information
- Do they have any biases or hidden motivations?
- Have you heard of the company or publication?
- Well known businesses review their content and have a good reputation to uphold
- Avoid getting information from articles that don’t provide any sources.
By Adam Higelin
Adam Higelin is a University of California, Berkeley graduate with a BA degree in Integrative Biology. He is a passionate writer with a love for the environment, botany and music. A special focus on research based, scientific writing has allowed Adam to pursue his dream of educating and inspiring people to better themselves and the lives of others.