Research is at the heart of learning. If you are a high school student, perhaps you have heard your teachers say this a few times, huh? You probably get tired of hearing it, but we’re saying it again!
To truly understand something, you have to do your homework. Research is the process of gathering data through a systematic approach to learning and information gathering. There is a citizen’s intelligence agency known as OSINT which was developed by a former CIA case officer, Robert David Steele. This Open Source Intelligence employs all of the research methods necessary to find out what you need to know. It teaches its members to learn detective skills and to probe deeper into a matter so that they will be able to find every resource available to learn in-depth information about a subject.
This kind of approach is great for students to learn, as well. Whether you are doing a term paper for high school now or a college thesis for a graduate degree, you will want to make sure you can validate your sources. Remember that some researchers do not approach a subject n a scientific way. Instead, they create or propose a theory that has more to do with a political or social agenda than with facts.
Let’s consider a humorous example.
Let’s say I wanted to prove that the Moon is made of green cheese. If I searched long enough either through OSINT’s multiple resources or other sources, I could find someone somewhere who would be willing to confirm that the Moon is made of green cheese.
That’s because the people who believe this idea create the information in such a way that it is believable. It is only believable though because you, who are researching it, do not know whether the information is true or a made-up story.
Learning research techniques that are based on sound research practices is critical so that you can learn to discriminate between truth and fiction. There is a difference between truth and propaganda. Below is a list that may help you understand this better.
1. Read several sources to determine which ones are based on facts and which are mostly opinion. Do not use opinions as references. These are editorials and cannot be trusted as facts.
2. Study the speaker. Why are they telling you the information they are sharing? Do they have a reason for wording the information the way they do? Find out what their perspective(s) by researching their beliefs. This will tell you a lot about how accurate the information is.
3. Never believe something just because it appears on Instagram or Facebook. There are tons of false news items floating around about a variety of topics. Vet the information by testing out the facts that being stated and cross-reference with other sources to check for accuracy.
4. Trace the trail of information and follow links that are provided for the reader or viewer. If any part of the theory falls apart, you have to reject the theory.
5. Use common sense. Many statements that are made do not make sense with reality. Dig deeper to learn other “side information” that is related to the topic to see if it is valid.
6. Draw your conclusions based on facts, not opinions or misinformation. To be a good researcher, you need to make sure your conclusions are valid, logical, and can be documented.
One of the biggest problems today is that some more colleges are teaching that you cannot find the truth at all! This is not true at all. (No pun intended). The truth is out there, but you have to think like a detective and eliminate information that does not pass the test of logic.
Finally, consider what you think. Part of drawing conclusions is based on our belief systems, whether we think something is possible, and whether we trust the speaker or author.
This is normal. But remember to follow the Heizenberg uncertainty principle: “All things being equal, the most obvious answer is the right one.”
Sometimes, though, the author can do such a good job of making it seem right, that they fool you into thinking in the wrong direction.
In today’s world with so many political beliefs being pushed one way or the other, it’s important to learn how to vet and verify the information before drawing conclusions.
Whether you are writing a research paper or trying to figure out where you left your keys, this information may help you make sense of an often-times, confusing world.