IIR is a very competitive sport. If you don’t find the needed data, then the opposition wins.
Now you might ask, “how does one train for the ongoing IIR competition?” My answer to this question comes in two parts.
First, read about IIR and read the manuals for the software that you use to produce your end product. You must learn about sources and the methods used to produce a report that is fit for decision-making.
Second, one must practice using these sources and methods.
You can get a sound grasp of the first requirement from my book, Sources and Methods for Investigative Internet Research and this and other blogs, and I will share some secrets about the second requirement right now.
Practice finding more details about obscure news items that you see on TV or Twitter. You must collect the full story, write the story in report format, and preserve all the supporting material. Time yourself for completing the overall task. Also time your wasted effort. It is important to do both if you want to improve your performance. You can also set a time limit for the task using a countdown timer like XNote Stopwatch. For a timer that allows you to log wasted time, you can use Time Stamp.
Consider the following training exercise; there is a news item about a Spitz dog found near death on a trash heap in California during the week of 9 Dec 13. I knew the dog was a Spitz from the TV news item and I also knew the approximate date from the date of the news item. My training task was to get the basic 5 W’s on paper in twenty minutes. Could you do the same thing? If not, then here’s how.
I had the basic when and where—only in a vague sense. I know that search engines are not very good at handling calendar dates. I know my basic search statement will be dog trash California and I am certain they won’t report the breed accurately. That leaves me with the date, search statement, and as it was a TV news items there will be images and video. Where do I start to get it done in twenty minutes?
I know that only Google handles calendar dates in a usable manner and that it has excellent news content. I should also search Bing, Yahoo!, DDG, and Devilfinder. Time is not on my side.
I set-up a OneNote notebook with two tabs. One for research material collected from the web and one for the 5 W’s. Under the 5 W’s tab, I create a sub page for each W. I will use the 5 W’s material to create my report in Word as I would any other report.
Fagan Finder to the rescue. It organises search engines into useable groups and gives you an easy to use interface, such as the Google Ultimate Interface and Google Search By Date Interface.
For the search term, dog trash California, Google had excellent results and Bing had poor results, as did DDG and Yahoo!. The problem was that there were two similar stories one involving a poodle and one that was the subject of this exercise. Google eliminated the poodle stories when searched by date. Devilfinder produced excellent results as well.
From Devilfinder, along with the Google Ultimate Interface and Google Search By Date Interface I was able to provide all the W’s and complete a short reporting memo in twenty minutes while maintaining the proper citations and source material in OneNote.