Did you know that a fair amount of Snapple’s real facts, located on the underside of company bottle caps, are actually untrue? One particularly popular cap claims that Americans swallow an average of eight spiders while sleeping. The verdict? Snopes reveals that the statistic is completely false. In fact, PC Professional journalist Lisa Holst purposely perpetuated the lie in a chain e-mail, back in 1993, to demonstrate that people will believe just about anything they read on the web. Ten years later, an overwhelming number of people still accept it without question.
Research, including fact-checking, is crucial. Lack of research suggests a lack of credibility and professionalism, and, in Snapple’s case, may even result in the viral spread of misinformation. As demonstrated by Holst, the internet only makes things worse. True, there is a lot of information online. Students, researchers, and professionals alike need to keep in mind that there are a lot of falsehoods, too. What are some things you need to know before you head online to do some research?
Determine Whether You Are Looking for Hard or Soft Research
One of the first things to determine is what kind of research you’ll be doing. Hard research entails anything that you are likely to back up with scientific information, indisputable facts, and proven figures. Soft research, on the other hand, usually starts with an opinion. For example, if you are writing a paper about the best pets for kids, it is likely that some of your research will be soft research. Your sources may include surveys and polls, or interviews with parents with a successful track record of matching their children up with the perfect pets. When seeking out soft research, it is also a good idea to combine it with some hard research, or something you are likely to find on a credible reference search engine. For example, you may want to list specific facts about dog breeds that parents suggest, such as average life spans and distinguishing features.
A cross reference search is essential for a strong research paper. Lists of references should include several reliable sources, and the best use of multiple sources is fact-checking. For example, Snapple may not have made another false claim, that penguins are the only birds that can swim, but not fly, if they had done a little digging. Multiple sources reveal that cassowaries and flightless cormorants also cannot fly, even though they are adept swimmers. Do some research before citing facts, and know that thorough research requires more than one source. It is also a good idea to have some sources from sites ending in .gov or .edu, whenever possible, or to use reliable, online dictionaries and encyclopedias.
A strong research paper requires hard facts, verified by multiple references. Do some research, true research, by combining hard and soft research, and always cross reference, or fact-check, using a minimum of two reliable sources.