My high school journalism teacher stressed the importance of reading between the lines. “Always jump to conclusions.” he told the class. “To do so means you’re thinking beyond the obvious.” I often remember his words when I’m researching for an article or blog post, or when I read something that doesn’t sit right with me. It’s a reminder not to take things a face value. This doesn’t mean nothing is ever as it seems, but if your gut tells you something warrants further investigation, go with it.
Jump to conclusions and then back up your feelings with facts.
Just because it’s written, doesn’t make it so
May I be blunt? The Internet is cluttered with garbage, mostly because so many writers don’t want or know how to conduct proper research. However, the web isn’t the only problem. Newspapers and magazine feature columns with a one-sided point of view and even supposed journalistic pieces can slant too far to one side. Still, we think because it’s published, it’s Gospel.
Always consider whether the writer has an agenda, and if so, what those motives might be. Does the author have something to sell or something to hide? If you’re thinking there might be more to a subject or situation, dig a little deeper. You never know what you might find.
Go beyond the first couple of Google pages
You know why content is on the first page of Google? Because the authors use the right keywords. A search engine can’t read a blog post and say, “Whoa, doggy…this is one awesome piece of writing! I’m going to stick it right here on the front page so everyone can see it.” Many factors land content on the front page, stellar research isn’t one of them.
Train yourself to move beyond page one. Start from the end and work your way forward. You may not find the most keyword-laded articles, but you might find intriguing content different from the rehashed and rewritten stuff on Google’s top pages.
Ask questions even if it makes people uncomfortable
Googling a topic is only a small way to research a subject. Get on the horn. Fire off an email. Read. Ask questions. If you suspect something isn’t as it seems, rock an interview. If your questions make people squirm, you might be on to something. Remember, people with nothing to hide don’t mind answering questions.
Go ahead, jump to conclusions. It’s essential for writers to be judgemental. Use your instinct as basis for your writing. You may be on to something.