How to Research Difficult Topics

At some point, we all seek information that we don’t have a clear answer for – things that could be difficult to discuss, topics that might open new doors or close old ones. Still, we want to know, or at least we think we do. The following are a few tried-and-true methods of getting those elusive answers.


This one is easy and low risk, depending on what it is you want to know and what search terms you’re using. (Pro-tip: You might want to consider using a non-work device to do an internet search to get the answers to your questions, particularly if they are of a sensitive and/or deeply personal nature). Just drop your keywords into the search engine of your choice and you should have fairly immediate access to the information you’re seeking. In addition, as Abraham Lincoln once pointed out, if it’s on the Internet, it must be true.


This is a risky method of finding out what you’re dying to know (and even what you’re not remotely interested in). You could be caught, in which case people will avoid interesting conversations in your presence. Nevertheless, it can be a pretty effective way to get the answers to your questions if you can pull it off undetected. (Fair warning: Listening through the wall of your office might reveal a little more than you want to know about your co-worker’s personal life). There’s good news if you feel a little sleazy about eavesdropping. A recent study by the Society for Research in Child Development showed that children as young as three are capable of tuning into their peers’ conversation, so it’s obvious that we’re just wired to intrude.

Ask Your Mother

Aren’t moms the best? They are a treasure trove of information, and they usually like it when you talk to them. Moreover, if there is something they don’t know, they are willing to make phone calls or spend hours searching their memory to help you get the answers to your questions. Should you choose this route, expect a lot of questions like, “Why do you want to know?” and “Is there something you’re not telling me?”


Hear me out. The libraries of yester-year are over. Today’s libraries are modern, highly digital, and a great source of expert speakers on very diverse topics. Check your local library’s website for upcoming events and speakers to see if any could help you get to the bottom of whatever it is you desperately need to know.