We all look for information on various topics on a daily basis (we do”basic research”) — whenever we need the perfect recipe for a birthday cake, the best new laptop to fit our professional or academic needs, the best deal on a plane ticket, etc. You’ll notice that the word “best” was used in all three examples, but the definition of “best” in each case would, of course, vary depending on our specific needs and priorities — that is, our criteria. Cost might be a criterion in all three cases. For the cake, for instance, dietary restrictions or personal preferences for one type of texture over another might play a part. For the laptop, we might care more or less about aspects like the battery, speed, video quality, etc. depending on what we’ll be using it for (a journalist and a software developer wouldn’t have the same needs and priorities). Higher-level research involves defining needs and criteria and serves the same general purpose: to address a situation/ solve a problem in a way that would be found most advantageous (“best”) by our readers.
Research in the workplace runs the gamut from basic searches for information such as looking up Yelp reviews to find a restaurant to host a holiday party to writing reports of several hundred pages that require both extensive primary and secondary research. Being able to find the most useful sources quickly will help you streamline your work. To find the most useful source, you should ask yourself why you are using sources in the first place — what do you need to know/ what would your readers need to know?
- Provide a deep look into a narrow topic;
- Provide a broad overview of something you’re just learning about;
- Show you up-to-date information on a topic that changes quickly;
- Save you time by allowing you to build off of someone else’s work;
- Offer a perspective you haven’t considered yet;
- Test your ideas to see if they’re sound;
- Help you solve a problem by showing how someone else solved it;
- Bring together different perspectives so you can consider a problem from all sides;
- Allow you to analyze the opinions of many different people, so you can find trends;
- Show how someone in a different industry, company or location solved a problem.
In this chapter, we’ll learn how to narrow a research question, then find sources that will be help you achieve your purpose.