To recap the first and second parts of this series, when conducting research or fact checking:
- Look for potential errors
- Consult with reporters, editor, experts, etc.
- Check ready reference print sources
- Consult colleagues
- Search Internet
- Verify answers and sources
- Check with news librarians or news researchers
- Conduct Database searches
- Double check print, electronic resources
Use search engines, but remember, while most of the portals cover popular sites, they don’t always cover directories, search engines, individual pages and lesser-known sites. None of them are comprehensive, and there isn’t always an overlap between the search engines. Sometimes, it’s more effective to switch to another search engine rather than sticking to just
Remember to use phrase searching whenever possible, add more words to focus results, try a title search for subject focus, limit searches to .edu or .gov (or whatever country specific top page applies) to exclude most ecommerce sites. Use link search to find links to specific pages.
The best engines and portals?
Google: One of the largest and includes PDF and other file types.
Fast (at AlltheWeb and Lycos): One of the largest databases and fast to load; may find very specific items not found on other search engines.
AltaVista: One with the most powerful search capabilities. Has relatively unique features such as NEAR, truncation, full Boolean searching, and extensive language limits.
MSN Search: Powerful search features, a very fresh database, and the default search engine in Internet Explorer.
Teoma: A newer and smaller search engine that specializes in identifying communities on the web and metasites.
Now that we’re done, here is a list of the many useful, easy and fascinating places I’ve used to research, fact check, and dredge up ideas over the years. It’s large, but certainly isn’t exhaustive. Every industry, hobby, profession, etc. has a site like the ones I’m about to share with you. Now that you know, if it exists, you should be able to find it.
Statistical Abstract of the US; The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published since 1878, is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the
United States. Sources of data include the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and many other Federal agencies and private organizations.
A U.S. source for population, housing, economic, and geographic data.
U.S. State and county facts.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics foreign nation facts and statistics.
Population Reference Bureau - Worldwide population statistics
CQ Electronic Library, covering US congress, public affairs, history, etc.
Annenberg Political Fact Check – Monitoring the factual accuracy of statements by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. APFC’s goal is to apply the best
practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.
State & Local Gov. on the Net – The state and local government Internet directory provides convenient, one-stop access to the websites of thousands of U.S state agencies and city and county governments.
Biographies of U.S. Government Officials
Federal Stats Homepage – The gateway to statistics from over 100 U.S. Federal agencies.
Gateway to state-specific U.S. government homepages.
Gateway to U.S. Legislation and records.
Social Statistics Briefing Room – This service provides easy access to current Federal social statistics. It provides links to information produced by a number of Federal agencies. All of the information included
in the Social Statistics Briefing Room is maintained and updated by the statistical units of those agencies.
Links to tons of International Statistical Agencies.
EBSR International – Provides information collected from the U.S federal government relating to international economic statistics.
Uneseco Institute for Statistics – Global and internationally comparable statistics on education, science, technology, culture and communication.
Huge database of world statistics and facts.
The U.N. Statistics Division – Committed to the advancement of the global statistical. The UNSD compiles and disseminates global statistical information, develops standards and norms for statistical activities, and support countries’ efforts to strengthen their national statistical systems. It facilitates the coordination of international statistical activities and supports the functioning of UN Statistical Commission as an apex entity of the global statistical system.
International Human Development Data.
NGO global network – Site with links to non-governmental organizations associated with the United Nations.
Facts, news and statistics related to the Global association of governments (United Nations) facilitating cooperation in international law, security, economic development, and social equity.
Economics and Finance
The International Financial (IMF) Statistics service of the International Monetary Fund.
Bank for International Settlements – The BIS international financial statistics are a unique source of information on various elements of the global financial system.
WTO statistics and facts – Interactive access to the most up-to-date WTO trade statistics.
International Trade Center (ITC) – An interactive web application presenting trade statistics and market access information for international business development.
Environment and Environmental Science
Environmental Protection Agency where you live. A site-specific guide to environmental facts and statistics in the U.S.
Similar to the link before, but you can view environmental information for any U.S. zip code, city, or county not just your own.
Interesting facts on oil and gas relating to the ocean and oceanic environment.
Global warming facts from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Home page of the Cooler Heads Coalition, an organization offering information aimed at presenting presumed myths and flawed analysis presented by global-warming organizations.
Facts about Global Warming from a non-partisan source.
UN Environmental Program – Attempting to promote environmental understanding, and increases public knowledge about environmental factors and problems of future generations.
US Energy Information Administration – Provides worldwide usage data and demand forecasts for most any energy source you can think of.
Home page for the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Association
Tornado Wind Scale
Home page for the United States Geological Survey
CIA World Fact Book – One of the most fascinating sites to find facts related to the geography, population, health, imports/exports, deaths/births, religion, government, land mass, history, etc. of every (U.S.) recognized country in the world.
Another great site with current info and travel tips for any worldwide destination.
The official Web Site of the United Nations Cartographic Section in New York. You can find UN Peacekeeping maps, country profile maps and Geographic Information.
National Geographic Maps – Satellite, street maps and more in our online atlas.
Google’s interactive satellite and geographic exploratory site.
US Naval time for anywhere on earth
Compiles and maintains an extensive, global seismic database on earthquake parameters and their effects.
Includes an index map and zoom views, with location and magnitude information. Updated hourly.
Military, Crime and Justice
United States CODE
Department of Defense – Links to every US Military Institution, facts, statistics and every thing else the Department has an interest in.
United States Department of Justice
USDOJ Freedom of Information Act – Access to government files and investigations from circa 1940 on.
U.S. Bearu of Justice Statistics – Survey-based crime statistics.
USDOJ International – Information about crime and criminal justice in other countries.
Interpol official site – International Criminal Police Organization Statistics and facts.
FBI – Incident-based crime statistics.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
Health, Disease and Emergency Management
Center for Disease Control
National institute of Health – Facts, statistics, and helpful links.
Information about medicine, medial conditions, terms, procedures, organizations, etc. Includes a dictionary and Medical Encyclopedia.
Interactive Health Tutorials from the national institute of health.
World Health Organization Statistical facts.
Agency of the US government tasked with disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery planning.
Education, Educational Information and Reference
(general, writing, history, media, english, etc.)
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. The primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.
Smithsonian Education – Central education website.
ACES: Words on Words – Tips on editing and headline writing, comments on clichés and bad writing, etc. Offered by editors and journalism professors from around the continent.
G. Price's Fast Facts, Almanacs, Statistics, etc.
An informationpalooza in multiple languages.
Merriam Webster online.
Find Law – Legal definitions.
Wordsmith – Dictionary/Thesaurus
Librarian’s Internet index
Math thesaurus – Contains brief explanations of mathematical terms and ideas in English, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Slovak.
Getty Trust Site focusing on education.
The Art & Architecture Thesaurus© (AAT) is a structured vocabulary for describing and indexing the visual arts and architecture.
Historical thesaurus of English – Contains the vocabulary of English from the earliest written records to the present, with known recorded dates of usage, taken from the Oxford English.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Converts any kind of measurement. Length, Temperature, Speed, Volume, Weight, Flow rates, Density, Cooking, Area, Fuel Economy, Energy, Currency. Acceleration Angles Gradients, Radians, Degrees, Minutes, Seconds, Points, Areas, Lengths, Frequency, Astronomical unit, light-years, Clothing sizes between different countries, Computers and Electronics, various conversions and calculators related to computers and electronics.
Great Music Guide
Full source database to links on every kind of religion and religious theory.
The best Movie, actor, director, etc. fact database.
Food and Agriculture
USDA – Agriculture by country and international agriculture facts
Facts about agriculture by US state.
Freedom of Information Act food and safety fact page.
Food Timeline, a culinary history reference and research service.
The US government’s portal to numerous science informational pages.
NASA Science page.
Directory and links to many NASA sites.
Coverage of current Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions. Also includes links to past space flights, Mars exploration, etc.
Tips to help you debunk the junk.
How does stuff work? This site will tell you.
National Geographic’s home site.
Two of the best sources for current, well written news.
And Just For Fun
(“facts” and ideas you may not find elsewhere)
Exit Mundi – The absolute best site for enough end-of-the-world scenarios to scare the pants off you.
Urban Ledged reference page – The starting place for exploring urban legends and folklore on the web: Internet hoaxes, rumours, urban legends, and urban myths debunked.
Debunking rumour and ledged alike.
Website with fascinating “smoking gun” information (think divorce papers, autopsy reports, contract riders) about celebrities.
Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazards – An index of potentially threatening Near Earth Objects – scary.
NASA’s catalogue and tracking page for Near Earth Objects thought to be coming close enough to Earth to cause severe damage – monitors the dates of potential asteroid impact.
Center for UFO studies – fun stuff.
National UFO Reporting Center – yes I’m a sucker.
What would you do if you were trapped in a car that just plunged into a lake? Darkly humorous nail biting info about how to protect and/or save yourself.
Wisdom Quotes – By philosophers and otherwise.
Cult news and links to cult facts.
Operation Clambake – Dedicated to debunking Scientology
Informative Interactive Autopsy – Yep, you really get to perform one.
A collection of morbid facts stories and pictures. Caveat Emptor. Consider yourself warned.
Even worse than asylumeclectica. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Jeff Rense Program. Conspiracy theories galore. Some fun. A lot of them ridiculous and sometimes, maddening.
Explore lost civilizations, ancient ruins, sacred writings, unexplained artefacts, science mysteries, and alternative theories.
Google Video, where you can download for free, political, cultural, scientific, and investigative TV shows and episodes from around the world.
Jennifer Edelson is a former practicing Minnesota attorney, now regular IN columnist, freelance writer and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities. Jennifer can be emailed at: email@example.com