You’ve probably had to do a lot of research as part of projects or assignments. Your
lecturers give you instructions on how to conduct research. This will help you to pass the assignments and get your grades.
The importance of research skills
However, research skills is more than just meeting the requirements for a class
assignment. It is also a key competency that employers look for in university
graduates.So, how do you develop this competency? And how could collaborative learning help
you develop this to a higher level? Here are a five tips to improve your research skills.
1 Develop an enquiring mind
People with an enquiring mind are always on the lookout for new knowledge,
interested in new developments, ideas, insights and perspective. An enquiring mind
wants to know. An enquiring mind is a key skill in today’s fast changing world. If you have an enquiring mind, you go beyond the subject that you’re studying and try to look at the
bigger picture. You are interested and curious about things in everyday life and ready
to discuss this with others. Here’s what you could do to develop an enquiring mind:
- Ask questions and try to recognise issues you’d like to explore;
- Be aware of multiple, cross-cultural perspectives for understanding and analysing issues;
- Try to look for solutions to problems or imagine how you could find solutions to problems.
Explore and diagnose a problem thoroughly
Imagine you come across a problem or an issue that piques your interest. The first
step is to explore and map out the problem. Here are some questions to ask to clarify
- What is the problem? Do you have a complete picture? What’s missing?
- Whose problem is it? Who is involved?
- Why exactly is it a problem? What’s the urgency?
- Where does the problem occur? What are the specific problem areas?
Plan your research carefully
Now that you’re clear about your problem statement and the scope of your research,
it’s time to plan your research. Each research project is unique, but you could plan
your research with the help of the following questions:
- Why and for whom will you conduct your research?
State the reason and relevance and describe the target group.
- What do you want to know?
Describe the topic, problem statement, type of research, theories, and
- Where will you conduct your research?
Define the subject of your research, sources and locations.
- How will you carry out your research and how will you collect data?
Describe your research design, methods and techniques.
- How far will you extend your research?
Start broad, then dive into the specifics.
Researching is a big task, so it can be overwhelming to know where to start—there’s nothing wrong with a basic internet search to get you started. Online resources like Google and Wikipedia, while not always accurate, are a great way to orient yourself in a topic, since they usually give a basic overview with a brief history and any key points.
Learn how to recognize a quality source.
Not every source is reliable, so it’s crucial that you can recognize the good sources from the not-so-good ones. To determine a reliable source, you’ll need to use your analytical skills and critical thinking, and ask yourself the following questions: Does this source agree with other sources I have found? Is the author an expert in the field? Does the author’s point of view have a conflict of interest regarding this topic?
Verify information from several sources.
The internet is a big place, and, for the most part, anyone can say whatever they want online—many websites don’t evaluate their content for factual accuracy. This means that there are plenty of unreliable resources out there, and even many that are outright incorrect. The best way to combat this is to make sure that whatever you find in your research, several different sources can verify that it is true. Rather than going off of one webpage, make sure that at least two other places say something similar.
Be open to surprising answers.
Good research is all about finding answers to your research questions—not necessarily as a way to verify what you already think you know. Solely looking for confirmation is a very limiting research strategy, since it involves picking and choosing what information to collect and prevents you from developing the most accurate understanding of the topic. When you conduct research, make sure to keep an open mind so that you can learn as deeply as possible.
During the data collection process, you’ll be seeing a huge amount of information, from webpages to PDFs to videos. It’s vital that you keep all of this information organized in some way to prevent yourself from losing something or not being able to cite something properly. There are plenty of ways to keep your research project organized, but here are a few common ones: Bookmarks in your Internet browser, index cards, and an annotated bibliography that you keep updated as you go.
Take advantage of library resources.
If you still have questions about researching, don’t worry—there are plenty of places out there to help you out, even if you’re not a student doing academic or course-related research. In fact, many high school and university libraries offer resources not only for faculty members’ and students’ research but for the larger community. Be sure to check out library websites for research guides or access to specific databases.