There are three main difficulties you face during research:
- Finding the right information,
- Keeping on track,
- Managing the data
Finding the right information
Finding the right information is never easy, but it is made easier by following the advice in the video. The question is your guide. Follow the leads in your question. You can gain information about people by asking them or asking people they know. Or learning about their preferences, dislikes and habits.
Whenever you come across a good source of data, make a note of it. Even if it’s not useful now, it may help in future problems. For example, an excellent source of raw data is data.gov (and similar sites in other countries). If unanalysed data isn’t what you’re after, try journals and magazines (like forbes.com for business news).
Keeping on track
You will uncover information that is interesting but not relevant to the question. That happens to us all, all of the time. The danger is in blindly following these paths. They can get you off-track pretty quickly.
I recommend writing up your defined problem somewhere visible. Always keep it in mind when you find something interesting. If you find something unrelated that you think is worth investigating, make a note of it. You can always come back to it later. The key is to stay focused on the goal (namely, addressing the problem defined in the previous step).
Managing the data
For small amounts of information, keeping rough notes is usually okay. But as you add more data – and if anyone else needs to read your notes – making things clear becomes important.
Let’s say you are collecting links to useful articles. Apart from the link itself, what information should you include in the notes? At the very least, you should note:
- the topic/content (a brief description would do),
- when you accessed it,
- the quality/reliability of the information (and whether it needs verifying)
It’s also a good idea to arrange this information into categories. It will help when looking back over your research later.
Module 1: Introduction
Module 2: Defining the problem
Module 3: Researching the data
Module 4: Imagining possibilities
Module 5: Designing the solution
Module 6: Experimenting
Module 7: Case study: This Course
Module 8: Where to from here?