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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Research in Action – Verifying Search Results

One downfall of Google searches is that even an incorrectly spelled word or name can return dozens of results, giving the impression that it's spelled correctly. It is important when evaluating the search results page that we consider the sources as well as the context of the page.

For example, if you were to search coop de tat, it would return a page full of results. At first glance, you might think that the proper spelling should be coop d'etat. However, it's important to look through the list for reputable sites that would give a conclusive answer. Even the results from larger, reputable site (like findarticles.com, Harpers' Magazine and NOLA.com in this case) can be spelled incorrectly. These results do not give conclusive evidence that "coop d'etat" is spelled correctly; however, there is no indication of what the correct spelling is. In fact, the correct spelling is "coup d’état," but you might need to mark it as phonetic if you're unable to find that spelling and the conclusive evidence to support it through your searches.

If you're working on a financial earnings call, it's also important not to rely on the spelling from past transcripts as your confirmation, as there's no guarantee that that transcriptionist has confirmed the spelling.

Finding a Wikipedia page is often a good indication that you've chosen the correct spelling. (And as a side note, be sure to verify the spelling listed if a Wikipedia entry does pop up because sometimes you'll get the correct entry even with an incorrect spelling in your search.) Corporate, political and personal websites for the person, product or company in question or well-known industry websites for technical, business or financial terms are reliable sources to confirm spellings, as is the dictionary.

If however, you're left with any doubt, it's best to mark the word or name as phonetic and let the client review it themselves.

I'll admit that I sometimes find research very frustrating because it can significantly increase my turnaround time on a file. However, verifying names and terms is an important part of our job description, and it's important not to rush through this step.

1 Comment:

margi said...
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