Takeaways from This Article
- Participating in interviews with colleagues and influencers empowers: knowledge, relationships, and professionalism.
- Research is a cornerstone of solid content posts because it shows you are familiar with your topic, knowledgeable of influencers, master of the current topic, and an intelligent writer with solid information.
- You can verify the credibility and strength of sources before you use them, learning and gathering research to work into your post.
- Many tools are available to help you research, fast and easy, and Evernote can help you track information, prepare for documentation, and write the post.
- A tough quiz after reading the post.
The Starting Point: Blogging and the Power of Interviews
When Linda Dessau first asked me to share my expertise in researching, I thought an interview would be helpful in starting a relationship an influential author.
I realized how kind and helpful professional writers are, and I boosted my network by connecting with them.
Most importantly, I clarified my research strategies, and continued thinking about how and what I do when I write.
What Research Does for Your Blog
Many entrepreneurs are confident and independent, leading some to believe that outside research sources are no better than their own thinking.
Many times this is true, but I would remind business bloggers and leaders that no matter how important they are, their message will be more potent with research. The minutes or hours you spend will add validity and credibility to what you say, and research will make you more knowledgeable and influential in your field.
Lack of research is almost always seen as a lack of power, effort, knowledge and diversity.
Use research to empower your influence and professional image, because relying on your merits or influence detracts from the face you direct toward the public.
When I start a post, I see research as an act of communication, and not just with my audience, but with writers who have gone before me. I know that others have already written about the topic in some form, and I feel obligated to read at least some of that information.
In-depth reading and citations show your readers that you have done your homework, you thoroughly understand the topic, and you are writing something new in the context of the existing information.
Research provides bloggers with data, information, and credibility; and documented sources instill trust in readers. Additional resources also allow you to explore your ideas more deeply.
How to vet the sources you find for credibility
Be sure to use sources that provide relevant and specific information for your readers and teach you more about the topic. You need to find sources that are valid and help you to establish credibility with your readers. Since anyone can publish on the internet, some sources are credible and others are junk. Your readers will know the difference between the two.
Think of sites like Wikipedia or Brainy Quotes as the starting point for your own research, rather than a source of quotes or links to include in your post. For example, check out the reference materials at the end of each Wikipedia article. Look for sites that end in .gov or .edu. These add a lot of credibility to your writing because they are from the government or a university.
To simplify here are six areas you can focus on with every site you use:
- Date of publication: How recently was the article posted or the site updated? Ideally it should be within the past five years, but in some cases, the research should be much more recent. Your topic and industry determine how fresh the site should be. What if you can’t find the date? That means the site is probably not credible. Search for another
- Authority: Who is the author or webmaster of the site? Find and read her biography to find out if she is a credible authority on the subject you are writing about. What is the level and subject of her education? What experiences does she have with the topic? What other works has she authored (other sites, books, ebooks, etc.)? Where has she published? Have other writers in the topic area cited her in their work? If you can’t find biographical information on the web, find another source.
- Reputation: Is the site credible? I use Chrome browser extensions to assess this. My favorite tool is Webrank SEO because it is thorough and tracks different, important ranking engines, and the tool is also available on their website. It reviews most standard ranking tools in one stop: Google PageRank, Alexa & Compete Rank, Social Stats, Whois Lookup, Pages Indexed and Backlinks in Google & Bing. If the rankings are decent, then you can usually trust the site. The MozBar extension is also helpful in providing domain rank and domain authority. You can also find tools on the Moz webpage.
- Advertising: How much advertising is there on the site and who is it from? Generally speaking, the more advertising, the less likely it will be a valid source. This is not always a sure thing, so be on your toes to adapt. For example, maybe the site has a lot of advertisements, but the reputation of the website (analyzed in number two) is great and the author has sweet credentials. If this were the case, I might still use the site despite the advertising.
- Polishing: Is the text error free or is it littered with misspellings and grammar problems? If the source is credible, you should find that it has been revised and edited a lot. The way you can tell this is true is by keeping an eye out for mistakes. One or two won’t hurt, but obviously 10-20 errors would be a problem.
- Power Writing: Does the text read well and does it enlighten you on the topic? I call this power writing because it is compact, meaningful, and engaging. You don’t want to pass a poor writer off to your readers. Will this text add to the power of your writing or detract from it? Gage the popularity of the writing by finding the number of social media shares of the article. The best articles can have many thousands of shares, but even hundreds of shares are great.
How to manage massive sources
As researchers and bloggers, we tend to move towards the fastest and easiest searches, but even if we just focus on Google, they provide a lot of tools for serious searchers.
For example make use of maps in your posts, when appropriate, adding visual power to location and place. Upload the maps you need directly to Google Drive to easily access and share when you need them.
The drive is integrated with tons of free apps in the Chrome Webstore, saving you a load of time if you maximize your use of the drive and apps you need. Very smooth.
Google Scholar is a whole academic search empire. If you are a researching blogger, you belong with academics in using the most current and valid sources available online.
Scholar takes you to sources that university professors and scholars of all kinds use to read, research, and write their own scholarly papers. These are the same papers that savvy bloggers use in their research to establish authority and credibility.
The value of scholarly papers is that they are peer reviewed most of the time, meaning that a group of top scholars in the field reviewed the paper and found it valid, truthful, and up to date. They reject the papers that professors submit if they do not meet their standards.
The purpose of scholarly papers is to provide you with current, researched, well written, and error free writing that you can use in spreading powerful information to your readers. You will become a much more sophisticated blogger if you use Scholar regularly.
You and I write in different topic areas probably. I have developed a process that moves you forward quickly and powerfully in a blog post, while creating great content with research. Consider how these apply to your blog topic:
- Top Bloggers – Narrow down to find the most professional and reputable blogging sites, within your niche. For example, since I write about the science of blogging and writing, I trust ProBlogger and CopyBlogger as solid, reputable sources that I use often in my writing.
- Research data – Raw data that has not been analyzed will lead you to a unique way to create an important article. You can easily find rich research and data, but you are responsible to mentally process the information and create an opinion that you can defend with statistics. Examine sites like the Pew Research, Stats.org and Gallup.com for results of surveys and studies. You can search for statistics and research sites in your particular topic area. This is called primary researching because you are going directly to data rather than to articles interpreting data.
- Online magazines and megablogs – These huge online sources prove useful because they typically double check their sources. Examplesinclude:Huffington Post, Mashable, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Business Insider.
- Feed readers – Plug the most helpful sites, magazines, blogs, and mega blogs into a feed reader, like Feedly, InoReader, G2Reader, BlogBridge, and QuiteRSS, which will track the most current posts from your sources of choice. They also suggest other sources you might be interested in. You can totally customize the feeds from your favorite sites. Feed readers are invaluable for keeping up to date with current, relevant posts and finding research.
- Aggregators – These tools browse online content in specific topic areas and help you discover new authors and sites in the field you are passionate. They adapt based upon your input and interests, and you can customize them to your needs. Zite, for example, reads your facebook and Twitter profiles to learn about your interests. The favorites I rely upon for research include Newsela, Google Newsstand, Zite (my #1 pick), Flipboard and LinkedIn Pulse. They preview the sources for you and pull up things that are usually well written, from strong and reputable sources. Most have websites and mobile versions, but not all. I use them to browse the hottest news and articles in blogging and psychology (the focus of this site).
- Search Engines – Of course Google reigns supreme in searching the web, especially for the kinds of information bloggers seek. Google has vast resources and tools, even though most people don’t use them. For example, take a look at the image of the Google Search tools for a minute. A lot of tools exist that we forget to use:
Scholar provides you with advanced searching tools so that you can find the best articles to build your authority.
- Knowledge databases – So what do you do with large databases of information such as Wikipedia, eHow.com, Ask.com, and WikiHow.com? Well, you know that they should not be the foundation of your research, and technically you should not use them as a link in your blog post. But, they all have lots of great information, right? Yes, but this is considered background research that you do on your own to become familiar with topics before you move on to more specific sources. They are extremely valuable for two reasons: they boost your knowledge and they (especially Wikipedia) provide detailed research notes at the bottom of each article in citations and references, most with online links to these new sources. You can look up all of the great sources that writers have cited and get started with real research.
- Documenting sources – Always be sure to document your sources to avoid plagiarism. Anything you quote directly should be in quotation marks with the source clearly defined. This can be as easy as creating a link before you drop the quoted material or images. Notice that I did this above with the Google Scholar picture, near the beginning of that section. My readers now know where I am pulling that image from. Remember that even if you put the source material in your own words, you should document it by providing a hyperlink on a relevant word. Anything you use that is not your own should be documented this way.
In collecting source material and writing, I have found that the easiest method is to use a system of notebooks in Evernote. Without this tool you are writing and researching in the stone age.
More than likely you are familiar with Evernote, which is available for every platform and every device so that you can work anywhere.
How to Use Evernote to Supercharge the Research and Writing of the Post
Why Research Is Essential to Your Blogging
The next step is to start a new note and begin writing your post and synthesizing your sources and documenting with hyperlinks.
The strongest writers are familiar with the ideas of others, including those with opposing views, and their research empowers the persuasive tone of their writing.Great leaders read, write, maintain an open mind, and embrace new truths as they encounter them. Sharing these innovative ideas will make you a powerhouse in your industry.