Research can be fun and challenging, but it can be, and usually does become, tedious and time-consuming. This is because the process isn’t an easy one and requires thoroughness on the part of the researcher. When a person conducts research the right way, the effort becomes even more facilitating with regards to achieving the goal of finding resources and assimilating data into a whole.

Proper research, just like anything else, consists of ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’. Whether or not one adheres to these considerations can make the difference between success and failure with regards to achieving a strong and solid result, since a questionable bibliography or resource archive has a direct correlation over the final product’s level of efficacy and reception by critical readers.

Below is a list of ten ‘dos’ and ten ‘don’ts’ involved in conducting serious research. This list (or “lists,” if you consider ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ separately) is by no means exclusive; there are far more insights that readers and researchers alike can add to expand the list. For now, hopefully, these will help.

Do . . .

* Go as far as you can go to confirm a point – This refers to both research and expression. You can never obtain too much evidence to form or substantiate a claim, whatever it may be, as long as you don’t give up in searching for information. Persistence pays off.
* Always dig into opposing perspectives – Serious researchers need to be familiar with all sides of an argument to reinforce their depth of understanding in a subject as well as to strengthen their own personal views.
* Keep an open mind to many possibilities – Quite often, researchers conduct their work without a particular hypothesis in mind, simply to acquire information. Maintaining an open mind will allow said researchers the necessity to facilitate multiple interpretations of the information they receive, even if the information is in opposition to personal beliefs.
* Use a variety of resources and modes of information acquisition: interviews, surveys, books, the Internet (which includes discussion forums), eyewitness accounts, experimentation and film analysis, as deemed necessary.
* Conduct field research – It’s important and necessary for researchers to absorb impressions from a given studied environment. Images, though insightful, will render only so much information; personal encounters tend to expose researchers to even more.
* Take time with data collection – Serious research requires weeks, months, even years to conduct, especially if one is writing a book on a given subject. Patience is a virtue.
* Always remain objective, regardless of personal biases – This is difficult, as even professional, seasoned researchers tend to lean toward their own beliefs with regard to interpretation and conjecture projected to fill in “the holes,” should any ‘holes” exist” (and there usually are), although further research eventually uncovers the right information to fill in the gaps.
* Balance the acquisition and presentation of insight and evidence when it is absolutely necessary, such as in legal cases where details matter.
* Seek out as many authoritative entities as possible, even if the researcher is one – These strengthen the validity of one’s argument; the greater amount of authoritative input will ensure that the result will be seriously received by the reading public.
* Allow theories and conjectures to expound on research, but only if the said theories and/or conjectures are supported by available or existing data. These personal assessments/comments must never be presented as fact, even if they are sensible, rational or sound.

Don’t . . .

* Rely on only one source – Rarely will one source provide enough information necessary to establish or validate a point, even if it is a reputable source. The greater number of sources a researcher acquires to substantiate data or make an argument, the stronger and more convincing the result will be.
* Look at movies when trying to determine facts on a story – Movies are fun and colorful, and, yes, sometimes based on research or existing data, but never are they accurate to the detail. First of all, the unavailability of information calls for conjecture; and secondly, artist liberty necessitates the enhancement of plot development and drama. For these reasons, no two movies on a given event are the same.
* Jump to conclusions – Researchers let the information do their talking for them. Jumping to conclusions without substantiated backing can weaken a researcher’s credibility or the credibility of her/his argument.
* Ignore any relevant data because it negates or contradicts a hypothesis or personal belief (see the point above regarding ‘opposing perspectives’)—learning the many perspectives involved will allow researchers to strengthen their own and become informed.
* Attack a person for having opposing views or criticizing yours – too many debaters attack opposing speakers instead of addressing the points expressed. Focus on the subject. This is important when conducting research as well. Researchers must remain detached.
* Disregard the details – sometimes the details hold crucial information or bring forth further points or questions that need to be answered. One example is the aforementioned legal case.
* Put heavy weight on old/antiquated sources, unless (1) research deals with a particular document or writing, such as an old poem or story, that serves as the center of the research/investigation; or (2) current information remains unavailable on a given subject, in which case a researcher can note the most recent data, even if that data is decades old.

    >Typically, researchers pay attention to sources going back ten or fifteen years prior. Why? Constant research performs updates, so older information is rendered inaccurate or incomplete at best. Still, some researchers might go back further, say, to fifty or a hundred years, depending on a particular source’s level of importance, or if older information remains uncontested and is still accurate.

* Give up because data is not forthcoming. – Good researchers attempt multiple avenues. Sometimes the lack of information constitutes important data in itself.
* Exclude images as viable research – These hold an abundance of valuable information, though they can be misleading and might not tell an entire story. They add a visual dimension to a study that is oh-so crucial. Still, if the validity of an image is in question, researchers should conduct background checks to verify one way or another.
* Disregard the layman’s input – If such input is sensible, rational, and/or supported by sound data, the researcher should recognize and consider it. Regular everyday people have valuable insight to share as well, and the added voice (in conjunction with that of the authority) can only provide further strength to the argument (this is subjective, of course, but not entirely unacceptable).

Regardless of the subject one researches, these principles apply because they pertain more to overall behavior than subject matter. Every researcher finds that said principles assist more than hinder.

Advertisements