It would be almost impossible to make a comprehensive list of all of the ways television and movies have mislead us or oversimplified things when it comes to performing complex tasks over the years, but if such a list existed, investing would likely be at or near the top. In Hollywood, every stock transaction is done on a whim thanks to a red hot stock tip gotten from someone on the inside or someone's crazy uncle who can see into the future. In reality, hot stock tips to exist, but even the hottest ones are researched meticulously so that those involved don't lose their shirts. Researching stocks is a bit of an art form, however, the Internet has made doing most of the heavy lifting easy. Here are a few tips for the amateur stock researcher to follow.
If you are a smart investor than you have a full service stock broker on speed dial that you can speak with at any time. Before you make the final decision to buy a stock, it is always a good idea to tap into the huge knowledge base that your broker has at his or her disposal and see if this stock is all its cracked up to be. This is one of the major reasons why having a full service broker is better than using one of the online stock trading websites. With a full service broker, they can give you more information that the vital statistics associated with a particular stock. They will likely know about any sort of breaking news associated with that company and what the daily activity has been on that stock (are people buying or are people selling.) Most importantly, they can also give you information that only they are privy to that might or might not have been made public yet. The best research tool any investor can have is a good stock broker.
If you have made the decision to invest online on your own, there is still quite a bit of information available on the Internet. Many online stock trading websites not only deliver a huge amount of raw data to their users about how a stock has performed over the short and long term, but also how to read that data. They have dozens of graphs, charts and read outs that try to put the raw data into context. What these sites can't do, really, is interpret the data and tell you how all of that is likely going to affect the stock's future performance. Of course, this is speculation and not statistical analysis, but knowing how a stock has performed in the past doesn't really help you if your fortunes are going to be determined by what the stock does in the future. Research can only help give you some context on where the stock has been.
Finally, having a subscription to a daily newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, or at least an online subscription to their webpage, is an essential way you can do research, just bear in mind that there are millions of other people reading the same information and likely acting on the same trends you are. It isn't really possible to get a "hot stock tip" from the financial newspaper of record, but it can help you spot trends and news that can affect how the market is going to perform in the future.