Intimidating, isn’t it?
You flick through the RSS feed. And with each post you open, your confidence level drops a notch.
They all seem so authoritative.
And superior to everything you’ve ever published.
Look closely though. You’re not intimidated by those authors’ vocabulary. Sentence structure. Tone. Or even ideas at that.
It’s the data and references they use to explain concepts and back up claims that drag you down.
Today I’ll help you change that. I’m going to show you EXACTLY where they find all this data.
Excited? Let’s roll it then…
Why Proper Referencing is So Important
I’m sure you know this very well already:
Content helps you attract and build a passionate and loyal audience.
People who believe you, trust you and once ready, willing to buy from you. Recommend your product. Or link to it.
But this could happen only if your content manages to communicate your authority.
Enter referencing and data.
Authority is a perceived value.
It’s not imposed on us as much as we ourselves identify it by various cues. These could include:
- An impressive job title.
- Official uniform,
- Position and so on.
This explains why, for instance, ordinary people are willing to administer pain to others on a request from someone dressed in a uniform.
Here’s the most famous experiment that proved it – the Milgram Experiment.
Here’s another, similar experiment in which passers by were tasked by a stranger in a uniform to guard a prisoner and administer electric shocks if he tried to escape:
In both situations the sheer cue of a uniform was enough to convince a stranger to a person’s authority.
And follow their orders.
OK Pawel, that’s incredible (and scary too). But what’s that got to do with data and references?
References in the copy work in a similar way.
They act as a cue confirming readers of your authority and knowledge on the subject.
Here’s some data to prove it:
According to a study from Public Understanding of Science journal, just seeing graphs and charts makes medicine claims more credible.
I’m sure you’ll agree that the graph below could hardly add anything worthwhile to any claim.
And yet to many people just seeing it will be enough to assume the claim it backs up is credible.
In this article Randy Shore presents similar research findings. He writes:
“People are significantly more likely to believe that a product or medication is effective when a scientific-looking graph is presented with product claims, even when the graph presents no additional information, a new study has found.”
So there you have it, adding reference and data to your content will make it sound more authoritative, believable and superior to any other content out there.
What types of reference builds authority?
The below is, by all means, not an exhaustive list. But in general, here are the best types of references to include in your content to awe the audience:
- Expert quotes and references – interview snippets, purpose statements, quotes from their content.
- Research findings – results, data, research descriptions, quotes
- Statistics – numbers, comparisons,
- Graphs – images, excel graphs, tables,
- Proprietary research – own research findings, experiment descriptions.
And Here Are the Best Places to Find Data and References for Your Posts
Nothing beats citing academic reference and research findings directly. But in most cases, unless you have access to dedicated academic research libraries (i.e. ResearchGate), this data is out of your reach.
Or is it?
Enter Google Scholar.
Google Scholar is a search engine for academic papers and articles. And using it is as simple as using the “normal” Google. Just type your search query in the search box and …voila, Scholar displays relevant search results.
Here’s the catch though: a lot of results you’ll get will come from academic libraries. And as I said above, unless you have access to them, you might not be able to access those papers.
Scholar also lists PDFs clearly marked in the search results. Clicking on them will give you access to the actual article, or work based on it.
To increase your chances of finding PDFs, add inurl:pdf to your search query. This way the search engine will display only PDFs.
Zanran is a search engine for data and statistics. It allows you to find stats, graphs and numbers on pretty much anything.
And again, it works just like any other search engine. Zanran sifts through various data sources, incl. academic research too to deliver a list of relevant search results.
The Guardian Data
This British National Daily paper maintains a section on their site devoted to various data and statistics from around the globe. It offers raw data as well as analysis you could include in your content.
Let’s face it:
No other source beats the search engine when it comes to finding information online. In most cases all it takes is a good search query and some cleaver search operators to find everything you need to know.
Here are a couple example queries you could use:
To find stats or research findings, use:
- “Your topic, category or research area you’re writing about” + “research”
(i.e. “authority obedience” + “research”)
- “Your topic, category or area you’re writing about” + “stats”,
(i.e. “Content marketing effectiveness” + “stats”)
To receive broader results, drop quote marks:
- Your topic, category or area you’re writing about + research
- Your topic, category or area you’re writing about + stats
- Your topic, category or area you’re writing about + case studies
Note: The key to finding resources and data in Google lies in how you describe what you’re looking for. So, use variations of the topic you’re looking for. Or simply imagine what questions your audience would ask to find it.
Press Release Sites
Think about it:
What’s the first thing any major organization does when publishing new research findings?
They issue a press release about it.
And so, scouting PR sites might help find the most up to date research.
What’s more, many companies summarize their findings in the press release making quoting it even simpler. It may sound lazy but sometimes all it really takes is just to scan the release and you have all the data you need.
I monitor PRWeb.com for relevant press releases but you might find other sites more useful for the purpose.
(An example of a recent press release announcing new research and summarizing findings.)
TIP: The simplest way to find recent press releases that announce research findings is by using queries like:
- topic new research, i.e. “marketing new research”,
- topic latest research, i.e. “marketing latest research”,
- topic research announced, i.e. “marketing research announced”.
The academic world rejects Wikipedia based on the unreliability of information and factual errors.
And they’re probably right.
But that doesn’t mean that you should dismiss everything you find on the site.
In fact, there are plenty well-researched and referenced articles there. And if you scan to the bottom of the page, you’ll find a list of resources a person has used to compile the entry.
And needless to say, you can find a lot of interesting stuff there…
(A snapshot of resources used to compile the aforementioned Milgram Experiment entry)
You’re not the only one searching for data and references.
So do your competitors, providing they do their job right of course. And they might find references you’ve missed.
A quick look at their posts, or anyone else’s articles on the subject at that, could reveal additional research or statistics sources for review.
Researching other people’s content doesn’t mean summarizing their writing. Use this as an opportunity to find additional research and data but review it before including in your copy.