Setting out on a research task can feel quite daunting, where on earth do you start? And once you do, where does it end? So, to help you navigate the windy and confusing road to research, I’ve compiled some of my top tips!
- Develop research questions
Before even opening up your web browser, it’s important to first develop your topic and research questions. It can be very tricky to know when it’s the right time to stop researching or when you’ve gone slightly off track without having a plan of action. By setting yourself a list of questions and objectives, you can ensure your research is limited yet strengthened, allowing you to make the most of your time and focus on collecting the facts and figures that are truly relevant and that really support your piece.
- Primary and secondary research
Research can be split into two broad categories: primary and secondary research. Put simply, secondary research involves gathering and summarising existing information and data, while primary consists of collecting data through original research that you’ve done yourself.These two types of research can offer great value to a piece, but it’s important to figure out which type would be of most value to your work. Secondary research is perfect for when information needs to be accessed quickly and cheaply; for smaller projects, chances are you will be able to find everything you need on the internet or at your local library. However, when the topic you’re focusing on is a little more unique, primary research allows for a higher level of control over what and how data is collected, but can often come at a cost to time and budget.
- Find a trusted source and platform
By simply typing your question into Google (other web browsers are available) and throwing your question out into the world, you’re going to get all kinds of responses back. But you can’t just rely on the first results page to provide you with the answers, facts must be checked and checked again!When carrying out secondary research, you should always make sure you’re reading from a trusted source. Everyone knows not to quote Wikipedia in their research, but it’s vital when you’re looking for stats that you’re getting data from a verified reliable source, or when looking for facts and opinions, that you can find the information on more than one or two reliable sources. The Office for National Statistics is a great place to find UK stats that are recent and accurate.If completing primary research online, the platform in which you chose to host your research is also just as important as finding any other reliable information source. Using a well-known, widely trusted site ensures your investigation is reaching the target audience you require. A great example of a well-known and well trusted research platform is YouGov, the Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, which conducts its public opinion surveys online for both national and regional research.
- Organise research with sources
This tip is so simple yet so important! Once you create, gather, or start manipulating data and files, they can quickly become disorganised. To save time and prevent errors later on, information should be organised cleanly to make it easy to access and understand when it’s time to compose. Organising is a very personal thing, as each individual finds sense in their own unique way of organisation. I find using clear and to-the-point bullets to list information allows me to strip back data and leave only what’s relevant. Always be sure to keep the correct source with the data, this prevents a mix up later on and ensures you’re always quoting correctly.
- Avoid plagiarism
Taking previously established ideas and opinions should be done with caution, be careful to not fall into the trap of plagiarism. Writing something, especially when it relies so heavily on research, can make it all too easy to simply copy and paste and change a few words around. Identify what does and what doesn’t need to be cited – understand the reference and the idea, then either reframe it in your own words or directly quote if appropriate. As per my last tip, by keeping your sources organised, you can keep track of and therefore manage everything you’ve referenced.
Be clear, be concise and be conscious when navigating the road to successful research, there are so many trip hazards and roundabouts in the process. To learn more about how we can help you stay on the straight and narrow during your research projects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.