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Desk Research


About This Course

Welcome to Totem’s course on Desk Research for journalism! You will gain knowledge on best ways to use the Internet to collect data for investigations, including: finding documents and numbers; optimizing your Google Search results; and searching for specific sources.

Why should you take this course? Data collection is an important part of journalism and investigations. It allows you to move beyond opinions and unverified facts as well as to investigate and substantiate a story with data from official databases, including a range of viewpoints from different sources.

About Totem

Totem is an online platform that offers interactive courses to learn how to increase digital security and privacy. The optimal user experience is currently on your desktop computer. The aim is to support journalists, human rights defenders and activists use privacy tools and tactics more effectively in their work. Not a journalist? Don’t worry these courses should work for everyone.

Start today and learn how to protect yourself online.

What will you learn?

You will come away from this course understanding:
  • How to conduct intelligent research online research on databases, people and sources
  • Best practices and tips for conducting information research beyond a Google search
  • How to search and extract data contained in local, national and international databases


Before you start this course, we recommend that you take the Totem course on How to Bypass Internet Censorship in Iran. That course will introduce you to key concepts and tools to protect you from being followed around the internet. It will introduce you to using a VPN connection and the Tor browser, and explain why these are important when it comes to your online security and privacy).

Last update

This course was updated for the last time on: June 2020


Content created with the help of Zamaneh Media as well as several organizations, digital security trainers and online education experts who collaborated during workshops and sprints to co-create this Totem course.