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Quick Tip: Don’t start your research with Google

Yes, you need a lot of research for a white paper.

No, you don’t want to start with Google. 

That might send you down countless rabbit holes.

And with AI content being dumped online, we can expect the web to get even more polluted with lies and disinformation in the future.

So here are three steps for doing research even faster and better by not starting with Google.

Step 1: Start with Wikipedia

Wikipedia logo

But you said never quote Wikipedia in a white paper?!

No, don’t quote from Wikipedia. That’s still my rule. But you can use it as a shortcut.

Wikipedia is a secondary source: people commenting on the primary sources who are the actual authorities.

So look up your topic in Wikipedia, and then use the footnotes to find primary sources, the real experts.

Those footnotes will lead you to authoritative authors, analysts, journals, universities, and government reports.

Cover of The Economist magazine

CIO magazine

Step 2: Check trusted sources

After that, do a sweep of some trusted sources:

  • Analysts like Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Forrester, Gartner, McKinsey
  • Journals for C-level execs like CIO, CFO, CMO—whatever fits your target readers
  • The Economist
  • The New York Times
  • The New Yorker
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Wired
  • Ted Talks
  • For professions: any special sites or journals for that profession
  • For technologies: any special sites or journals for that tech
  • For global topics: the UN

This targeted research may sound like a lot of effort. But I find this usually turns up solid references I can quote in my white paper.

Step 3: Then use Google to check if you missed anything

Google logo

But don’t click on dozens of items.

Take a quick eyeball down the list of Google search results. You can skip anything you already found.


Do you see anything that sounds right on target, from a source your readers trust?

Tip: If you see many items that all seem to quote the same factoid, survey, or study, click on a couple to find the original source.

Then dive into it and forget the commentators. Once again, go for the primary source, not the rehash.

I’ve found using Google third instead of first gets me better results in less time.

Try it yourself, and let me know how it works for you.


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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 300+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. And named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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