Let’s say you have done some basic research and you realise, to your horror, that your original hypothesis is wrong. Do not be afraid to redefine your story in the light of new information! Flexibility is one of the most important principles in conducting a good investigation. Do not try to force the new facts to fit your original hypothesis.
After this background has been established, next it is time to deepen your research and discard what is irrelevant. It hurts to discard work you have done. But you must. File old notes, as they may prove useful for a future story. Look for meaningful official comments and highlight the most interesting sources and references. What you are looking for is concrete, specific evidence to replace abstract assumptions. And here is where you will deepen your understanding of the subject. You do not want to be hit with a lawsuit. Forget anything you cannot verify. Look for conflicting points in your notes – can they be reconciled? And what do your ‘biased’ sources have to say about it all? Try to get all comments on-the-record. Check, cross-check and check again.
As you proceed, inform your editor about what is happening so he can re-draw the pages if he needs to. You should do this as early as you can. Also, flag any defamation and other legal issues with your editor. Your editor may need to forward the finished story to a lawyer for advice.
The next chapter will teach you how to secure your data as you begin your research.