For the past 9 years I have been a scrutiny research officer. What that means in English is I set about researching subjects currently being looked at (investigated) by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. When I think about it, I have been a researcher since my early youth. My earliest memory is from when I was 7-8 years old and curious about all things Egypt, I went to the library and read multiple books about the pharaohs, drew pictures, and got a book with stamps on hieroglyphics to teach myself how to write like they did. This isn't too far different from my job except the resources and subjects have changed a little! Here are my 8 simple fundamental approaches to research:
- Know your subject: Before you can start any research you must identify the specifics – what is your subject matter, what do you need to know about, what are the objectives?
- Give yourself a deadline: Give yourself plenty of time but write down a timescale of what you need to research and by when; break it down into steps/chapters.
- Scope your subject: I usually start with a mind map to bundle the questions I need to address under the titles How, What, When, Where, Why, Anything else.
- Who are you researching for: By knowing who your audience will be this will help you phrase your research, prioritise what information you report or put to one side, and how to structure the report you need to write.
- Find your resources: Gathering a list of resources of where you can find the information and prioritising that list in terms of accessibility and how it fits within your timeframe can help you focus where and when you research. (Resources can include: books, magazines, videos, people, organisations, encyclopaedias, internet, social media)
- Address each question in turn:You should have a list of questions to answer from your mind map and/or in addition to questions put to you from those asking for the research. Work your way through the list and fill out your report chapters.
- Framework your report:Whether you are researching for yourself or for others, a good framework will help you organise the information you find. This can be a simple as a collection of Pinterest boards or folders on your computer categorising the information you find.
- Review your findings: Do you have all the information you need? Do you need to use all of the information gathered or can you cross-reference and use a summary? Check your spelling and grammar. Have you acknowledged your sources and given credit? It is important that you do not infringe copyright or use images (such as infographics and charts) without permission of the original author.
What are your fundamentals when researching a subject? Do you have any other techniques useful to others?