How and where can you find good supporting sources for your blog posts? How can you make sure your sources support your content?
When you’re writing a blog post, sometimes you’re your own best source. Your knowledge, observations and opinions will be enough.
But other times, you need to go outside of yourself to find information from sources that know more than you do. When you need to find outside sources, it’s important that they be informative and credible. They need to support the point you’re trying to make.
Chances are, you’re going to search for sources online with your favorite search engine. The most popular is Google, and it’s my favorite. But good Internet research means more than just searching a phrase and clicking on the first website that comes up. Here are some tips to help you with online research:
- In addition to search engines, try searching directories of websites organized by topics, such as Yahoo! Directory or DMOZ.
- Make your keywords as specific as possible. Use several keywords, a phrase or a whole question. Then test synonyms for other results and to refine your search.
- Once you find a search site, learn the site’s search syntax, such as whether quotation marks around a phrase matter. Check if capital letters matter, and if can you do Boolean searches using and or not.
- Check your spelling. Not all search engines have good fuzzy logic. They’ll search for exactly what you type in. For example, I’ve noticed that Google’s fuzzy logic is really good, but Wikipedia’s is terrible. If you misspell a search term on Wikipedia, it likely won’t find it, whereas Google will give you other suggestions.
- When your search turns up a website, study the website’s address to make sure it looks credible.
We know there’s a lot of information available on the Internet – sometimes too much information. But what types of information are available? Most websites fall into one of the following six categories:
- Advocacy sites often end with .org. They influence public opinion or promote a cause.
- Commercial sites are probably the most familiar. They end with .com, and are usually for a company or business selling something.
- Entertainment sites also usually end in .com. They primarily entertain and are often interactive.
- Information sites are usually those that end in .edu, .gov or.mil. They present facts and statistics.
- News sites usually end in .com, and they offer current information. Many of them are the online versions of newspapers, magazines or TV stations, but they can also be online only outlets.
- Personal sites are where most blogs will fall. Some of these, like mine, have their own domain name, while others are hosted on a site such as Blogger or WordPress.
As you’re searching, look for information from expert or official sources because they’ll be more credible. There are several off-beat, but credible sources of information you may not have thought about. Many local and national groups have websites and might be worth a search.
Political and civic groups are community activists and concerned citizens. They watch the government because they’re concerned about what it does and how it affects them. They make excellent sources because of their knowledge and opinions.
Professional groups, such as trade unions, trade associations and membership groups, often fund their own studies, and they love press coverage and are willing to share their information.
Private sources or special-interest groups have a strong personal interest and feel a formal organization is necessary to accomplish their goals. Some are national in scope with local chapters, and some are local only. Some are long-term groups, and some may form just long enough to get their goal accomplished.
Research organizations are the groups that are always doing behavioral research about our beliefs, feelings, attitudes and morals. These are opinion pollsters and survey groups. The federal government also releases reports about survey research.
Searching the Internet for a source to support your topic is both easy and scary, because of the wealth of information available. Keep in mind that not all Internet sources are credible or accurate. Do as much due diligence as possible to make sure you’re finding the best sources you can.
Readers, where do you find the best sources? How do you sift through all the information and decide what to use? Let us know in the comments!