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BUILDING UP YOUR RESEARCH SKILLS
Research contributes to the quality and richness of the messages you send:
written, oral, and nonverbal. Your research will help you impress clients by
demonstrating your familiarity with their industries and businesses. It will make
you stand out with potential employers when you interview for a position. It will
deepen your understanding of your own profession too. And it will save you
time and money in the long run. “The last thing I want to do is to spend a whole
lot of time traveling to see someone only to find out this project isn’t what I want
or need,” notes designer Mark Cain.design
Developing your research skills is critical to the success of your career,
whether you own your agency, freelance, or even if you work for a firm that has
a research department. If you want to compete on a high level, you’ll need to do
some or all of your own research.design
And you’ll need to do it well. Anyone can type in a word or phrase on a
search engine and make do with the results. But if that’s the extent of your
research, you’ll wind up presenting the same information as everyone else at
your sales presentation or job interview. That’s no way to stand out from the
crowd. You want to know how to access superior information that provides the
basis for superior presentations, right?
THE STAGES OF RESEARCH
The research process is made up of six stages: 1) planning, 2) source identification,
3) assessment, 4) note taking, 5) record keeping, and 6) making sense of
your data.design
1. Plan Your Research
Drive your research instead of letting it drive you by doing some initial preparation.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself mired in a scenario that goes like this: You
look up a topic on the Internet and follow some of the major links until you
come up with a collection of data that seems less and less related to your search.
As you go further and further into those links, you lose track of what you were
looking for in the first place. Maybe, you conclude, you weren’t focused enough
at the beginning of your search.design
Yes, it’s true. Research can take you on a long, circuitous journey, where the
agendas and opinions of the writers you are reading are likely to distract you
from your own quest. One way to stay focused is to begin by doing some brainstorming.
Take five minutes or so to jot down the questions you need to be answered.
Make a list, and refer to it while you are conducting your research, adding to it
and modifying it when necessary. By writing your questions instead of trying to
store them in your head, you’ll free up your mind for critical thinking and interpretation
of data. This tip is an invaluable one for keeping yourself on track.design