Doing your own research

I have no formal training in research other than a little college. I’m not a journalist. I’m not an expert. I mainly do research online, and sometimes in libraries. Here are some things I do that may help you do your own research.

Check for updates to specific websites. Use a site like https://www.changedetection.com/ to be informed by email when changes are made to specific urls like the websites of governments or organizations.

Get alerts. Set up alerts such as through google, to be informed my email when specific terms or phrases show up in the news or anywhere online. You can combine multiple phrases or combine a specific phrase with a location.

Use Twitter. Unfortunately, this tool tends to be the best way to get very up-to-date information on some people, projects, policies, organizations, etc. Follow all the relevant institutions and people that might be updating on topics of interest.

Read/skim meeting notes, presentations. Find the minutes of meetings in which your research topic may have been covered. Often you can find transcriptions of the meetings to learn much more than what ends up in press releases, in websites, and in the media. Also look for presentations that are either, video, audio, or powerpoint presentations for more information.

Search terms on specific websites. Use quotes around specific phrases you’re interested and use a search engine to only look at a certain website. Example: using google search “gila river” site:phoenix.gov
Sometimes you will find non-confidential but internal documents.

Specific search methods. Research ways to make your online searches more effective. Use quotes for phrases. Use combinations of search terms to try to narrow down your search. Filter by date (e.g. past year, past week, etc.) if that’s appropriate.

Academic research.  If you don’t have access through a college to various online journals, many are still accessible. Check http://scholar.google.com/. Less than legal ways of accessing journal articles are through a friend if you have one that has access, or through http://sci-hub.bz/.

Email people. It can be worth it to email authors of articles who cover topics of interest, authors who might know of additional resources on the same or similar topics as the ones they’ve written on. Email groups that may have additional information. Some people don’t respond, but many do.

Archive.org. Archive.org has stored various versions of most websites out there. If you’re looking for information that may have been on a website in the past but isn’t anymore, try it out. If you get a dead link, see if it’s on archive.org.

Muckety.com, Sourcewatch.com, Opensecrets.org. These could be useful for people, institutions, or organizations that have a broader network. You can use this to see who is connected to whom.

Spreadsheets. You can create a database of members of various committees, institutions, and organizations and include secondary or tertiary affiliations to keep track of who has a lot of influence.

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