How I research.

In a recent incident, people kept telling me I didn't do my research, or that my opinions have been formed out of ignorance. So, I'll tell you how I do research for my professional writing (online articles, a 500-page book, and magazine articles), and how that habit is now how I do all of my research when I want to know something.

I make a list of the questions I have, and use that as a springboard. These are questions that encompass basic general knowledge of a subject (such as the time I was hired to write about purchasing property in Thailand, which I knew nothing about) to things I wondered about but was not finding the answer to. Sometimes you have to get a basic knowledge of the topic just to know how to ask the deeper questions. You can't ask questions if you don't know what to ask. So, if I'm writing something and I feel a question in the back of my head, it means I haven't answered it and I need to go find the info.

I use a basic browser search. You type your question in, using long-tail methods as well as using search modifiers. Use more than one browser, and don't just stick with the top four. There are some rather ugly browers that do "deep" searches and turn up different kinds of results. Use them all.

I do a scholarly studies search. You search scholarly studies and articles. Obviously Google Scholar is an easy one to use, but there are others, some of which are part of specific educational institutions. While not all sites let you read a full study without a subscription, you can still get some info from the abstract. And, some sites do let you have access to the full text of the study.

I do a periodicals search. Again, you can use the Google version for books and periodical searches, but there are newspaper specific sites as well as topical/industry specific searches. Sometimes industry periodicals are quite interesting in that they talk about things that general reporting doesn't cover.

I go to specific websites and use their search tools. Various websites with specific industries or interests often are worth searching in and of themselves because a basic browser search won't dig in deep.

I look at bibliographies for additional sources. Reading articles often leads to better sources than the summary article itself, if the author has provided a bibliography (e.g. Wikipedia isn't a source beyond what I'd call a "definer" or expanded dictionary, but I do sometimes use the bibliography at the bottom to read the other sources. Some of the cited sources don't agree with Wikipedia's entry, oddly.)

I talk to people who have had actual experience in the topic. That is, I interview them, or write down notes from casual conversations later, in case it is useful in future writing. The human experience matters.

I make use of the library. Since I have a library card, I have access to some databases through that, so I sometimes make use of that. Some are databases you would normally have to pay for if you don't have access to the library system.

I read. A lot. And by that, I mean I read magazines and books, not just the internet. I have books in excess, and each year get rid of at least 30 to make room for new ones. Anyone who knows me knows I read. I take notes from my reading in what now amounts to ridiculously escessive stacks of journals. I make copies or clippings of interesting things I read, and file them in a filing cabinet for possible future use (such as the marijuana issue).

I find random other sources, and make them accessible for future use. In the past, I've sent away for transcripts of news programs. I have many, many hundreds of PDF files of online articles I've saved over the past decades. They are saved in a drive in which I can do OCR (object character recognition) searches, so even text in images is pulled into the search results. Needless to say, I have a lot of books, paper, journals, files, and a few TB hard drives piled around. Why? Because I like to learn and find things out, a.k.a. research.

I try to find balance and listen to the devil's advocate. Yes. I think of the "opposing" side where applicable, because I want to be sure the conclusion I ultimately come to adhere to is one I can live with. I'm genuinely curious and want to find out. I use the same methods for "both sides" when researching.


Stop telling me I don't know how to research, and all the other nonsense I've had to put up with recently. It's bull.


  1. Maybe the research you SHOULD do, is smoke a joint and actually judge how dangerous it is for yourself. I'm just trying to help you out, because, I'm telling you, to anyone who has experience with cannabis, you are making yourself look really REALLY dumb.

    To help you out, read your entire post again and replace all instances of "marijuana" with "a glass of wine".

    That's how you look to us.

    "Don't legalize a glass of wine because it's too dangerous for people to handle"

    See how dumb that sounds?

    No different.

    1. I responded to you over in the original post, where you sound just as intelligent.

      A glass of wine has nothing to do with the conversation, unless it contains high levels of THC. Which, with this measure, probably won't be long in coming.

      Thanks for trying to help me out, brave "Unknown" person who didn't put their name to their comment even though I've never hidden behind anonymity, but your help sounds pretty dumb. I do believe, however, that you have experience with cannabis. Your comment reeks of it.

    2. You will need to use your real name if you want to leave any future comments. Have a nice day.

    3. To Unknown: There is a difference on the surface, THC and ethanol are different and should be considered differently. However the comparisons of heath issues and health benefits of both make the line more blurred.

      Julie, did you come to the conclusion that THC was worse than ethanol? I don't think I saw that from you I saw that it just adds more things for people to be impaired by and gain negative health effects from (and benefits too but they cost less). As a European I'm used to 'legal but limited' (oh, and controlled somewhat) which I think judging by the comments in your original post most supporters of the legalisation are more 'no gov't or state involvement at all in my consumption', would that be accurate?

    4. I see it as this: we already have serious problems with alcohol abuse (and other drugs). This will be yet another to add to the problem. There are likely instances of levels of lower THC and higher alcohol, mixed with different body types/biology, that make it so I wouldn't say one was worse than the other across the board every time. The two are different, and interact with the body differently. I did try to point out that THC levels are climbing and there's danger to that. We've had a lot of study on what excessive alcohol does to the body. We're just starting to see what cumulative and some higher levels of THC do, but again, we don't really know much other than initial studies are concerning.

      I would not disagree with your statement that this is yet one more thing for people to be "impaired by and gain negative health" and we have enough of that. Additionally, this particular measure is extremely badly written to the point it has so little limitation to it that it'll be a free-for-all. You can see from the responses that any sense of control elicits a response of "you're a Soviet dictator" nonsense.

      Again, I'm not going to be in favor of this at all, but this measure in particularly is horribly written.


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