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Karen Madej

Do you disappear for hours chasing those cute bunnies and then wonder where all your time went?

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Karen Madej
Karen Madej
Photo by Guillermo Casales on Unsplash

How many hours do you spend searching for the white rabbit when you should have abandoned the idea or chosen a different angle?

Say you are looking for a study or reliable source to spice up your homework or your course work. You want to make a point backed up with proof you are right. Maybe you’d like to wow your friends with an exciting music video or weird facts.

Your particular rabbit might be YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or, my favourite, Quora. You can get lost in Quora answering questions Google could answer. The person who doesn’t find the answer themselves but asks someone else the question saves themselves time and energy. Clever person.

Three hours later you surface. Your head is spinning. The only thing you are good for is a mindless evening with the TV. Or sleep if you completely lost track of time!

Your process

Sometimes you might discover intriguing tidbits of information you could use another day. You make a note and continue searching for the perfect image or the essential study needed to shoe horn into your original story. Obviously, the perfect fit would be better, but you only have an hour.

“All too often, the rabbit hole is as deep as you have dug it.”
― Gary Hopkins

How many hours do you spend searching for the white rabbit when you should have abandoned the idea or chosen a different angle? 

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane fame wrote and sang about Alice in Wonderland and the effects of the drugs she took to grow or shrink. Besides the song being the best one ever written, in my humble opinion, it also highlights the words ‘feed your head’. 

Back in the sixties, people thought the words meant getting high on psychedelics. Grace Slick tells Mark Paytress she intended ‘feed your head’ to mean get an education. High priestess, The Guardian, 2002.

“When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head”
Grace Slick — Jefferson Airplane

We could speculate that all the tunnels we chase the elusive white rabbit through either prevent us from reaching our goal or help us find nuggets of gold along the way.

But we don’t want to spend hours researching!

The best way to not lose yourself in distractions is to figure out your angle. If you start your research with a vague idea and a fingers-crossed approach to stumbling across a piece of research, you will probably tie yourself in knots searching for hours.
Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

What tricks do experienced researchers use?

  1. Start with Google or Wikipedia but we know these sources might be unreliable. They give you a quick sketch of possibilities though. Sometimes I find the information I need without even clicking through.
  2. How can you identify quality sources? This involves looking at several and determining whether they match. You’ll need to find experts in their field and ensure they don’t have any conflicts of interest. E.g. a researcher also holds a position of authority, like a company director, which she could use to sway findings for monetary benefits.
  3. Choose at least three different websites to authenticate what you are saying. Many sites don’t fact check what they post.
  4. Keep an open mind, is the opposite of going in with a set point of view and finding the back up you wanted. I am guilty of this. It is a shortcut to getting what you wanted, but it limits your chances of forming a solid understanding of the topic.
  5. Rabbit holes can also become a maze. If you don’t keep track of what you want to use and where it came from, you will waste hours trying to find it later. While I was studying, I used Zotero to save citations. For writing, saving links to the platform page I am typing the story on work well.
  6. Online libraries can provide research guides and databases to help you find a wealth of information. Internet Public Library looks like an excellent place to start.

I adapted the above list from the Masterclass website. 6 Tips for Improving Your Researching Skills. You might consider this controversial because they are trying to sell us their master classes.

Use what you know to save time

From my experience researching for interesting angles for my articles I’ve found the word ‘no’ to work rather well. No, don’t go down that route. Also questions.

Does the reader need to know the full history of white rabbits and where they live for this story? No. 

Was the Jefferson Airplane angle the best one for this article? A perfect Cinderella fit or an ugly stepsister shoehorning? You tell me.

Pick a time frame, preferably one you know something about and then pick a couple of informative studies or reliable sources to back up your knowledge.

That cute white rabbit may look like it’s going somewhere, but you know it is a continuous loop. Designed to feed your head with immense knowledge. Knowledge you may need in the future but is irrelevant now.
By Andy Dingley - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

For you folks who love to impress friends and family with facts unrelated to anything they are interested in, are you doing this for them or yourself? I think you know the answer.

Of course, students and writers could always ask the people who love to spend or waste, depending on your perspective, their time answering questions on Quora. 

You, too, could be a clever person. But wait, did that clever Quora person fact check with three different reliable sources?