- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
If you are trying to improve your research skills, this is a good place to start. More and more every day the ability to do good research is an important part of success. Quality, accurate research is not just for students, scholars, and data analysts anymore. Today’s environment requires people to find factual information on a great many topics.
It is possible to get better at research online. The amount of information on the web is staggering, but you can narrow it down, sift through it, and pinpoint helpful specifics when you use a solid strategic approach. Borrowing research strategies from writers, marketers, and scholars is a great way to improve your research.
Developing an organized method will increase the effectiveness of your research. Following a formula that starts broadly and increases focus, you will be able to narrow down your research and provide qualitative, detailed information. We will show you how to do that in the next few paragraphs. Keep reading.
START BROADLY AND NARROW IT DOWN
Research can seem overwhelming at first. When you are looking through the details of a new topic or category you can easily get lost in the endless supply of information. Having a way to focus on the important details begins with widening your lens. Always begin your research with a broad, generalized overview of the topic. Think of it like you are looking at a map of the area you are about to explore. But keep in mind the old axiom, the map is not the territory.
When you take a generalized approach, you allow yourself to get oriented to the topic. Wikipedia and Google are great ways to do this. While it is true that they are not always accurate, you will be able to get a feel for the basics. That is where everyone starts anyway, so no big deal. But how do you narrow it down? All will be revealed.
We mean that literally. The more you look at a topic the more it reveals itself to you. As you consume content on the subject you will come across things you do not understand. Look those things up as they relate to your research. Explore the links and look up the definitions. Some trails will lead nowhere, but some will uncover gold.
CHECK YOUR SOURCES
Recognizing a quality source can be difficult. Learning how to differentiate between reputable and disreputable sources is a crucial skill to have. You can start by looking into their credentials. If you are looking at a wiki scroll down and look for reputable citations. If your source data comes from an article you found through Google look into the author, the website’s credibility, and any references the article has listed.
But it is not all about the credentials. You also must verify the information you are reading resonates with the other research you have done. If you read an article that says bees cannot fly and every other article you read says bees can fly, that first article probably is not the best source for your research project.
Ask yourself it the author of the article is an expert in the field. Do they have a history when it comes to writing about this topic? Are their opinions and research recognized as valid among others associated with this topic? Also, verify that the author’s viewpoint is not in conflict with other research in this area of study. Taking the time to question the source, the author, and the actual content will go a long way in your search for a quality understanding of the topic you are looking into.
CHECK FOR FACTUAL ACCURACY
Many websites do not check their content for factual accuracy. Many sources on the web are unreliable. Some are completely wrong. The most prudent way to defeat this is by having multiple sources from where you gather your information.
By having several different webpages, articles, and sources for your research you can ensure accuracy. If you come across a piece of information that you are unsure of, cross-check it with at least two other articles or webpages. When doing research do not put all your eggs in one basket.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Be aware that you may encounter information that surprises you. Good research is about discovery. It is not necessarily a way to verify what you think is true. If you are just looking for confirmation you are not committed to accurate research. Confirmation seeking is picking and choosing the information that fits your narrative.
Accurate research is a detailed explanation of the facts of a topic. All areas are explored so you and your audience can have a complete and fair understanding of the subject matter. You may come across information that you do not like. That is the time to keep an open mind.
Using index cards, browser bookmarks, and bibliography will keep your information organized. Organization is paramount to a successful research project. You will encounter high volumes of information. By the end, you will have likely gathered information from several webpages, PDF documents, YouTube videos, and podcasts. Having it all organized will make compiling your research a lot easier.
When it comes time to put all your research into a report or an article, having it all organized in one place will take a lot of pressure off. There are several ways to organize research. One way is to have a single folder with the umbrella topic. Within that folder, you can have subfolders that keep details organized. This will make it easier to cite your research later.
As a final research source, consider your local library. There is a lot of information there that is difficult to find online. Most people dislike research projects. They claim it is difficult and boring. Two things will help you overcome the obstacle and maybe even make research fun. The first is an organized, strategic approach. The second is curiosity. Curiosity is the driver of quality research and it makes discovery a treasure hunt.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell