Why research skills are key even if you’re not a researcher

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Broadly speaking, research skills refer to your ability to investigate a certain topic or issue with the aim of discovering new information or drawing new conclusions. It’s undoubtedly a skill that you’ll have had to use when you were at school or university, but it’s also one you use all the time, probably without realising it: finding the best smartphone deals, the cheapest gym membership or the best vinyl to MP4 converter for your grandpa.

When it comes to the world of work, research skills are highly sought after by employers because they are not only relevant to research-oriented roles, they are transferable across many different ones. Research is a key element of critical thinking – one of the most valuable skills you can develop to future-proof your career. When you need to evaluate something, solve a problem, find a new direction or make a decision, you can’t always simply rely on the information in front of you and what you already know; you often need additional knowledge and you certainly need perspective.

So, what does good research look like in practice? Here are four steps to guide you:

1. Define your objective
Firstly, be clear about what you are trying to achieve and keep that in mind as you start digging: are you looking for alternative solutions, are you looking for evidence to support a position, are you building a framework of reference, do you need reassurance about a worrisome point, what questions do you have that you can’t answer yet? Setting a clear research objective will keep you focussed as you start collating information.

2. Evaluate as you collate
You want to get a broad perspective on your objective, but there’s a lot of information out there, and the reliability and relevance of it may be questionable, so it’s important to keep refining your search terms to get closer to what you’re looking for and constantly assess the relevance to your objective. When you find something that surprises you or something that satisfies your presuppositions, challenge it and look for corroborating evidence from a different source. Wikipedia, for example, is often a useful starting point, but you would lose credibility to quote it as your source in any work environment.

3. Analyse your findings
Once you’ve collated your most reliable, relevant information you need to join the dots: look for the patterns in what you’ve found; what repeatedly stands out? What can you interpret from the data? How does any of it help your research objective?

4. Form your conclusion
Finally, with your objective clear in your mind, summarise your findings, formulate your new ideas, make your recommendations or present your solution. You should also establish which elements of your research are the most pertinent to share with your team and have your sources and links available, so make sure you document your findings and keep the references for all the information you find.

We’ve broken the process of researching down here for the purposes of clarity, but in all likelihood, many of these steps will run in parallel as you seek your own clarity. The key point to acknowledge from this is that research will help you in all areas of your work, regardless of whether your role is primarily research-orientated or not, and doing your research well will support you in your career from the quality of your work and the decisions you make to the way you are perceived by others.

Source: HN Global