How do you research

Search engines and reference books make a good team

Search engines provide lists with different content in which the respective search terms are contained, online lexica offer facts and information on a term. Due to their different structure, they are therefore also suitable for different purposes: If you are looking for information and explanations on a certain term, the lexicon is the right choice. When it comes to combining several terms, the search engine is the right address.

Wikipedia or lexicon

A reliable first source lays the foundation for classifying and evaluating further information. For schoolchildren, Wikipedia is often the first and often the only source of information. Studies have shown that the topicality and correctness of the articles in the online encyclopedia is not inferior to that of classic lexicons. But that doesn't make every single article automatically reliable. Since everyone can take notes on Wikipedia, texts can change daily and at least temporarily be incorrect or tendentious. With so-called deficiency notices, Wikipedia itself warns users if an article or paragraph is still missing evidence or the necessary neutrality. But even if an article does not contain a warning, it is advisable to take a look at the discussion, especially when it comes to articles on controversial political or social issues. If there is still a dispute about the balanced representation, one should definitely consult comparative sources. With a classic lexicon, on the other hand, you can rely on the fact that content is created, checked and regularly updated by an editorial team by specialist authors. Therefore, lexicon articles can be cited without hesitation. Since Wikipedia is also aimed at adults, young people are usually simply overwhelmed by complicated articles on, for example, scientific topics. In the worst case, you can copy and paste entire paragraphs into your homework or presentations. Special youth encyclopedias, such as those offered by Brockhaus, on the other hand, also explain complex topics such as the “radiocarbon method” in a simple form and thus ensure that the students can actually understand the content.

Good research stands on more than one leg

A matter of course for teachers, which they usually have to convey to students first: online search, lexicon or Wikipedia are not mutually exclusive, but can and should complement each other in a meaningful way. Of course, this also applies to research in general. Anyone who wants comprehensive information should always rely on different sources.

Good sources, bad sources

Reliable and trustworthy sources of information are the be-all and end-all of any research. But distinguishing good from bad sources is generally not easy, especially in times of fake news. Spelling errors, incorrect grammar or an alarmist tone can be an indication of questionable content, but a professional presentation, conversely, does not automatically make a page trustworthy. The questions to be asked of a text are therefore always: Is it trying to illuminate several sides of a problem, or is it limited to a one-sided perspective? Are there references to the spectacular facts and figures? If so, how credible are these sources? Are there any other trustworthy media reporting the alleged facts?