The Art of Investigative Research

November 28, 2023
The Art of Investigative Research

The Art of Investigative Research 


Online investigative research is a multifaceted discipline that plays a pivotal role across many domains. Whether investigating to uncover insurance fraud and abuse, hidden stories as a journalist, tracking down digital threats as a cybersecurity professional, or due diligence research for legal or business purposes, mastering investigative research techniques is a crucial skillset. This blog post will provide an overview of foundational concepts and approaches in online investigative research through practical examples.  

Understanding the Digital Footprint 

One of the key takeaways is the significance of understanding the digital footprint of an individual or organization. A digital footprint encompasses all online traces, including social media profiles, website mentions, forum posts, comments and reviews. Investigative researchers often start by thoroughly examining publicly available social media profiles and other digital sources. For example, undisclosed financial interests have been discovered through a subject’s social media activity, highlighting the importance of this information source. A comprehensive review of an individual’s digital footprint can reveal valuable insights.  

Advanced Search Techniques  

Advanced search operators are instrumental in efficient online investigations. Effective use of Boolean logic operators, in particular, are create more efficient ways to precisely refine search queries to retrieve targeted information. For example, investigators can use “AND” to narrow down search results by requiring multiple terms, or “OR” to expand the scope by including variations. Insurance fraud investigators often identify valuable pieces of data by leveraging Boolean operators to efficiently and comprehensively search public information, ultimately gathering previously unknown information that helps to strengthen the insurance claim defense. Mastering advanced search techniques is a required skillset to enable more thorough investigative research.  

Analyzing Social Media and OSINT Data Sources 

Social media platforms and other Open Source Intelligence sources contain a wealth of publicly available information for investigative researchers. Record research and analysis strategies include methodologies such as social media geolocation searching to uncover images and descriptions of events that happened at a particular time in a particular geographic area.  Monitoring public conversations around trending hashtags or events in real-time to gain contextual insights can provide useful leads and insights as well. A notable example includes a due diligence investigator  identifying indicators of corporate malpractice by analyzing employee comments on social media. Social media analysis often bring hidden issues to light. With care and diligence, information broadcast on public social media or other electronic platforms can be leveraged to uncover valuable facts that can supplement or enhance traditional record research.  

Verifying Information 

Best practices such as verifying facts from multiple independent sources or using personal identifiers to confirm findings is important for investigative research to promote the reporting of accurate data. Investigators often cross-reference details like identities, events and statements by vetting information across several authoritative sources to validate findings and strengthen conclusions presented in the investigation findings. Corroboration bolsters the credibility and trustworthiness of investigative research outcomes.  


In summary, mastering investigative research techniques is crucial for professionals across many domains, including insurance claims, journalism, cybersecurity, law and business. Foundational skills like understanding digital footprints, employing advanced search logic, analyzing social media, and verifying information increase the likelihood of uncovering relevant information that can be utilized for decision making purposes. Upcoming posts will explore additional specialized tools and advanced strategies to further enhance investigative abilities. A commitment to continuous learning ensures researchers harness the full potential of online data to conduct thorough, fact-based investigative research.​ 


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