Tips for Doing Research in 2024
In the past, the biggest problem with doing research was the fact that there was a lack of information. Before the internet, people struggled to find sources, but today, we face a different problem. There’s too much information and disinformation.
Sure, this is not a new problem. Even Mark Twain said that a person who doesn’t read newspapers is uninformed, but the person who reads the newspaper is uninformed. So, how do you navigate this landscape? How do you stay ahead and research when there’s so much information and fake news out there?
Here are some tips on doing independent research (without risking getting into the region of conspiracy theories).
1. Check alternative media sources
A subreddit named r/wallstreetbets spearheaded a massive GameStop short squeeze early in 2021. In other words, anyone on the subreddit knew exactly what was going on or about to occur. This is not the only such situation or an isolated case where essential information could be found on an alternative news source.
You need to bear in mind that this type of information spread is especially common when it comes to crypto trading. Crypto traders are usually more tech-savvy and prefer alternative communication channels. You often find the best crypto trading tips in Telegram groups, not on major news outlets.
With these groups and communities, you must find them on your own, join them, and then stick around for a while. The life-saving information won’t just fall into your lap. You sometimes have to wait around. This is always the case when it comes to crypto and crypto-adjacent technologies. For instance, you can never dismiss the NFTs community as a factor while researching the NFTs to invest in.
It’s also important to stress that some of these groups lack moderation. This makes spreading misinformation quicker and easier to slip under the radar. Take anything you read there with a grain of salt or wait for a confirmation from the higher up.
As for the channels, Telegram, Discord servers, and even Viber groups can be unusually useful sources of information.
2. Always listen to both sides
By listening to both sides, you’re not deciding that you’re taking a neutral stance. One of the biggest problems people face is to close themselves in epistemic bubbles (some even call them echo chambers). This is a subconscious thing that happens even to free-thinking intellectual individuals – people love getting news that confirms their beliefs and stances. This is how they choose their news mediums.
It gets worse!
Most news outlets are trying to persuade you rather than inform you. Therefore, when choosing speakers for the opposing side, they deliberately pick the least reasonable, the most antagonistic, and the least competent at presenting their case. So, they create an illusion that you’re listening to both sides, but you’re being subtly stirred in their preferred direction. Both sides often do this.
By actually going to the other camp, whether political, philosophical, scientific, or economical, you’ll likely hear the strongest opposite arguments (some of which you might be hearing for the first time). This is always worth doing, even when you don’t believe the word that the opposite side is saying. Sometimes, you need to try and figure out why they think what they think in order to get a full picture.
Just keep in mind that both sides are not always equally biased. Not every situation is both-sided; sometimes, you can make a big mistake by assuming the truth is in the middle. Sure, it may be somewhere between, but never in the middle.
3. Use a VPN
Sometimes, your geographical location will “taint” your Google search. You may be fed only the news from local sources. This is especially the case when it comes to major international conflicts. In this scenario, just looking up what a piece of media from the other side is saying won’t do the trick. You actually have to trick the internet into thinking that your real location is someplace else.
You can also use this to hide your location from the other platform. This is especially true when you want to ask people from a distant location a question and ensure that they remain impartial. This way, you can get information from a primary source (although biased) so that you can figure out this puzzle on your own.
Remember, all you can do is get the information or the data that you’re looking for. The conclusion is completely up to you.
There are, of course, other advantages to using a VPN, as well. For instance, you get to use it to protect your devices on public networks, hide your IP address from malicious online parties, and encrypt all your online communication. Then, there’s the obvious advantage of being able to watch geo-restricted content on streaming services. Still, even just as a research tool, a premium VPN is worth the money.
4. Approach things critically (be suspicious)
In the past, people were hardwired to believe what was coming through the mainstream media. People had far more trust in the institutions and were usually not critical of anything from the radio or their TV screen.
Then, people learned that this information was not always reliable, but this was a wake-up call of the wrong kind for some. They concluded that since mainstream media is “always” lying, the only logical conclusion is that the alternative media sources are “always” telling the truth.
The same group of people will doubt the information coming from the place of high authority simply because they believe there’s some plot. This is not necessarily bad (doubting everything), but they’ll uncritically believe anything coming from “the other side.” In other words, their thought pattern remains the same; they’ve just changed their source of information. This is as far from reasonable and “healthy” as it gets.
Even if these sources are unfair, you should be and give both sides the benefit of the doubt. Sure, some sources are more reliable than others but don’t take this at face value. Wait and see.
While all of this may just sound like common sense, you need to understand that a horrifyingly large number of people base their knowledge of stocks on movies. With that in mind, it’s no wonder so many believe all they’re told.
5. Read more than just headlines
Most people (some say eight out of ten) never read past the headlines. This means that by just skimming, you’re already ahead of the majority, but by actually reading, you’re way ahead.
Sure, this sounds like too much, but is it really the case?
Just think about it: picking a few journals (preferably from different political and socio-economic stances) and reading an article daily, you won’t lose more than 30-40 minutes each day. Isn’t this a small price to pay to stay well-informed (way better informed than most people)?
Sometimes, headlines are intentionally malicious. Why? Because of clickbait, of course. You see, headlines are sometimes misconstrued to get the most shock value. The author stands behind the fact that something along those lines was said in the article; however, they (completely unethically) ignore the fact that most people won’t read what they have to say.
Instead, they’ll see the headline, memorize it, and parrot this stance to the next person they encounter. This means that they’ll participate in this misinformation cycle without any bad intention, often combative when someone argues against the information in question.
Conclusion: You have to be more careful and put more effort into it
Finding the truth is not easy, then again, it never was. In the past, people just had fewer ways to uncover it, so you could argue that they had a “better excuse” to remain in the dark. You still have this same choice but if you want to learn the truth, you now have the means to do so. Moreover, you now know how to do it.