Gathering True Facts and Data

Gathering true facts and data is not difficult if you know where to go.

Learning how to do good investigations can be enjoyable and rewarding for the following reasons.

Doing good investigation leads to better decisions: Better decisions lead to better results in life. Better results in life leads to a happier life. It’s that simple!

Investigation of true facts and data leads to learning new things: Learning something new is exciting and fun because it is a discovery process.

Just in Time Learning

There are many useful resources to help you investigate true facts and data. The primary ones are: the Internet (including virtual bookstores), traditional bookstores and libraries, experts, classes and software.

To locate information when investigating use data mining. You have to sift through a great deal of information to get the golden nuggets of information you seek.

Effective data mining invests your time in order to learn what you need to know, when you need to know it. This is known as: just in time learning.

There are vast amount of true facts and data available on the web, books, magazines and more. Here are some questions worth asking.

• How do you quickly find the best information available?

• How do you keep from going into information overload? Information overload is when you feel buried in information and have difficulty knowing what to do next.

• How do you keep from going down blind alleys that take you in a direction away from the information you are looking for?

• How do you keep from getting wrapped around the axle? That is to say; how do you avoid looking at the same information again and again expecting it to yield something useful when it has little that you need?

Here are some ways to use resources effectively to answer these questions.

The Internet

The Internet is a vast, useful resource. There are ways to get true facts and data simply and quickly. The following method with help you avoid information overload, blind alleys, and getting wrapped around the axle.

Use a search engine to locate true facts and data by selecting descriptive words and phrases.

For example, to investigate a home project like building a wood patio in the backyard, use search words and phrases like: patio, backyard patio or patio deck. More descriptive phrases improve results. You could use: Wood patio decks, or building a wood patio.

Search engines frequently show thousands of results (hits) for topics searched. This can be overwhelming. However, you will use your time effectively if you take a systematic approach to investigating information and digging for the true facts.

The first page (or two) of search results will provide you with the most useful web addresses for the search words used. Search engines sort information by relevance to a subject by using a proprietary algorithm. An algorithm is a procedure used for solving a problem.

Double click on the web addresses that have the most useful looking information associated with them. Read the first paragraph or two of information on the website.

If the information is helpful and easy to understand, read further. If not, hit the back key to get to the search results. Then, double click on another interesting looking web site that was brought up by your search.

Continue the process of reviewing the interesting looking websites for true facts and data. When useful information repeats itself two or three times take note. It is a sign you’ve located a source of important information for your investigation.

There is a good chance this information is true facts and data. Bookmark the pages on the websites that have useful information so you can go back later if needed. Or, print out a copy, if that is your style.

Some information will identify other sources on the subject. If you need more information, these are good places to research next.

How deep you investigate a subject fro true facts and data is up to you. It is a matter of interest, need, motivation and time.

Internet Bookstores

If web searching doesn’t provide enough information for your investigation, consider purchasing a book or two on the subject.

For any subject there are several ways to locate good books. You can find references to books from websites, magazines and other books on the subject. Also, search for books in the Internet book stores—sometimes called virtual bookstores.

Amazon.com® and Barnesandnoble.com® are two good internet bookstores with descriptive rating systems as follows. These rating systems have four metrics (measurement of usefulness) that are helpful.1 They are:

A star rating system

The number of stars tells how customers rate a book. There are five stars available (or dots) from these websites. Zero to two star means customers didn’t like the book. Four to five stars means customers thought the book was excellent.

Look for books that average at least four stars. This indicates the book met the needs of most people who read it.

The number of reviews

The more reviews the better. Reviews are usually written by people who feel strongly about a book, either positively or negatively.

A lot of reviews indicate a book that provided helpful or stimulating information to others. Amazon.com® has the number of people who found the review helpful at the top of each evaluation. Reading these reviews first will save you time.

Sales rank

Review the book’s sales rank provided by Amazon.com® and/or Barnesandnoble.com®. This tells how well the book has sold in comparison to all of their books. Compare the sales rank number to other same subject books. More books sold indicate a popular and helpful book.

Book excerpts

Read book excerpts if they are available. If you find that the excerpts have useful and easy to understand information, then the book is a good choice. If not, look for other books on the subject.

This rating system method is a simple comparison study to find the true facts and data about the books. It will help you determine which book(s) will give you the best information for your time invested.

Sometimes web search provides enough information about a book to purchase it from the web. Or, you may want to study the book more before deciding to purchase it. Bookstores and libraries are good resources to use next.

To investigate a book further, print out a copy of the book’s description from the web bookstore, or write the name of the book on a sheet of paper. Take this information to a bookstore or library for further investigation.

Traditional Bookstores and Libraries

Web bookstores only allow you to browse selected excerpts. In contrast, traditional bookstores allow you browse book(s) in detail that interest you before buying. The section in the bookstore that carries the topic you are exploring will have other books on the subject matter.

As with browsing in the web bookstores, look for a book (or books) that provides information that’s helpful and easy to understand.

Talk to a bookstore employee about the subject you are researching. However, not all employees at bookstores are knowledgeable.

To find those who are, go to the information desk. If there isn’t an information desk, then locate a knowledgeable individual by asking employees who would be the best person to help you find information about the subject matter you are researching. Then, consult with that individual.

Public libraries are also great resources for true facts and data. The process of finding books is done by researching the subject on their computer system.

Libraries have well trained helpful people at the resource desks who will also assist you with your investigation.

Experts

Experts are important resources on their subjects. Two types of experts are top experts in their field and local experts.

Top experts in their field have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of a particular subject. They have a deep understanding the the true facts and data.

Sometimes there is one person who is considered the best in the field. Most times, there are a few who are better than the rest.

An outstanding example is Peter Drucker. He is a famous business management expert. Many of his concepts are essential parts of American business management practice.

If a person wants to learn about business management but only had time to read a few books, a good choice would be one of Drucker’s books.

Here’s another example. In the early 1980’s I started a screen printing business out of my home. I purchased a book called How to Print T-shirts for Fun and Profit by Scott Fresener and Pat Fresener.

It was the best “how to” book I have ever purchased. With this book I started a part time screen printing business; and for a while, a full time business. I had the business for over a year.

The book taught me how to build a screen printing business from the ground up, the equipment to purchase and how to price and market the products.

It also showed me where to buy shirts, and caps, inks and other supplies. It was only 175 pages long, but was full of ideas, resources and illustrations. Few words were wasted.2

Selecting a top expert to teach you is a good use of your time. Other perspectives are worthwhile; however, learning from the best provides a solid foundation of subject knowledge to build on. Then, if time permits, get different perspectives.

Finding top experts is straight forward. A web search result on a subject for books and articles commonly identifies experts in the subject. When a name continually shows up, take notice, that person is probably an expert in the field.

If an expert has written a book (or books) on the subject, review the book(s). Do a web search on an expert to provide helpful information about his or her experience and background. You may also find that there are articles he/she has written on the subject. Review those as well.

Other resources to locate experts are bookstores and libraries. Go to the section that lists the topic you are investigating. Review books that are helpful and easy to understand.

Many top experts write to others in their field, not to the general public. Understanding their material can be difficult. In this case there are two options to learn about the subject.

First, look for another top expert in the field. If another expert’s book explains a subject more clearly to you; select his or her book.

Second, look for interpreters. An interpreter is a person who can explain difficult subject matter by restating it for people who want to learn about it, but aren’t in that particular field.

Einstein’s work on relativity is tough to understand especially for the general public. Fortunately, there are many good interpreters who have studied his work and the true facts and data and restated it for most people to understand.

Another example of an interpreter is Thomas Armstrong. He wrote a book called The 7 Kinds of Smarts. The book teaches seven different types of human intelligences. It interprets the work of Howard Gardner for the general public.

Gardner’s book: Frames of Mind-The Theory of Multiple Intelligences is an academic study primarily written for experts in his field. Although good, it can be tough to read for people outside the field.

Local Experts

There are local experts for a wide array of subjects. They can be located at businesses and stores. For example, if you are planning on doing a home tiling project, talking with some of the experts at local stores will be helpful.

Seeking out people who have significant experience and knowledge is worthwhile. Ask for the individual at a store or business with the most experience on the task or project you want to do. Then seek advice from that person.

Classes and Software

Classes (from community colleges, adult learning and training programs) and software are available to teach various subjects. For exploring subjects in depth consider them as resources.


The Point of Diminishing Returns

Let’s return to the questions asked earlier in this chapter:

• How do you keep from going into information overload?
• How do you keep from getting wrapped around the axle?
• How do you keep from going down blind alleys?

Using the resources noted here you will be able to find the true facts and data effectively. This will help minimize information overload, getting wrapped around the axle and blind alleys. Here is another concept to consider that will decrease the effects of these problems further.

There comes a time to move to another step of a project, objective, problem, or to make a decision. This occurs when your time and energy generate minimal useful information. This is known as: The point of diminishing returns.

Another way of thinking about the point of diminishing returns is as the opposite of the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule). The 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the inputs.

The point of diminishing returns can be thought of as when 80 percent (or more) of your efforts are producing 20 percent (or less) of what you are attempting to accomplish. The point of diminishing returns is a personal decision based on knowledge, experience, reasoning, intuition and common sense.

Final Thoughts

With practice you will be able to sort the true facts and data from the information that isn't rich and that which isn't correct.

Gathering Facts and Data

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