“What do I do first?” An easy-to-use reference tool for starting out with your online investigation

Line graphic showing someone surrounded by ideas and looking puzzled
Line graphic showing someone surrounded by ideas and looking puzzled

“Where do I begin?”

In years of training people to investigate content, information and sources online, it’s one of the questions I’ve heard the most. As well as during workshops, I get messages almost daily with a link to a video, photo, post, or website, asking: “How do I get started on this?”

It’s completely understandable. You’ve learnt about scores of tools, how to use them, and how to work without them. It can be a daunting body of information and, if you’re a typical journalist, you’re sure to have a lot else on your mind besides.

So I’ve finally got around to creating a simple reference tool for when you can’t remember where to go next.

I’m not a programmer. The extent of my coding knowledge is the html and CSS I learnt when I couldn’t get my Geocities site (ok, I’m old) to look the way I wanted using the wysiwyg functions. So it’s not pretty. But it works, and I hope it will be of some help.

I’ve tried to stick with the OSINT Essentials philosophy of making everything as simple as possible to encourage newcomers, but hopefully comprehensive enough to provide value for the more experienced.

Going to the page, you’ll see a box with a list of “entry points” — the kind of single pieces of information you may have to start off with. Moving your cursor over any of them — or tapping if you’re on mobile — gives you suggestions on what to try next.

A screenshot of the reference tool for starting online investigations, showing the entry points and resulting suggestions
A screenshot of the reference tool for starting online investigations, showing the entry points and resulting suggestions

In some cases, there will also be a link to a page on osintessentials.com with a list of tools that can be used for that particular task.

There are certainly more comprehensive OSINT workflows available online — a simple search will lead you to them — and there is also much more you can do beyond the suggestions I’ve made. But I hope this will serve as a quick and easy reference when you’re stuck and can’t remember what to do next.

Happy hunting!

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