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It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have chosen as your profession, every day of your life you perform some sort of research to get an answer to a question that you may have thought up. Although, the answer to your question may be important to you, the most critical part of the process is the journey you take to get there. If you can, for a moment, picture a police dog that has been exposed to the scent of a criminal at large.
The police officer may take a piece of clothing and put it to the hounds nose so that it can become familiar with the smell of the object for which they are looking. The question in this case is where is the suspect, and the scent in the clothing is intended to lead the hound to the answer. As the dog begins to search the area where the suspect may be lurking, its frame of reference remains with the scent with which it started out. The trained dog hunts until finally it reaches the source of the smell, the suspect.
The key to the above illustration is not the dog, however, the training he received to find his answer. The dog knew where to go and how to get there. Research is not easy, it requires skill and consistency. There will be many places that you can go to answer a question but, as you uncover the layers you must be able to decipher, with a skilled eye, reputable sources and those that are bogus. Booth, Colomb and Williams in The Craft of Research state:
“Doing research carefully and reporting it clearly are hard work, consisting of many tasks, often competing for our attention at the same time. And no matter how carefully you plan, research follows a crooked path, taking unexpected turns, sometimes up blind alleys, even looping back on itself.”
So how do we determine where to go to answer our questions? You know what your question is, so it would seem to be a no brainer that you know where to go to find the answer, right? Wrong. The answer to your question can be found in millions of places such as the internet, books, academic journals and periodicals; it is your job to determine which is the best source.
Where do I go?
The internet offers tons of information, however, one has to be careful not to limit themselves to it solely as a resource. Of course there is good information available to us on the web; but, there is also a lot of information out there that has been taken from other sources and manipulated. So when using information from the web, be responsible and double check the sources that are referenced.
And how do I get there?
As we develop our research skills, it becomes easier to determine the path that we should take to move in the appropriate direction. If, by chance, you venture in the wrong direction, all is not lost. Over time you just become better at getting to the source of your “scent”; like the hound, our research ability gets better. Remember, even if you lose sight of what it is that you started out looking for, there’s always a way to get back to where you started – just return to the “scent” and begin again. Research is hard work, exciting and rewarding. While solving your problem remember to find enjoyment in the process of discovering the new and exciting things to which research will lead you.
Cathryn T. Branch, is the owner of Attentive Assistance, LLC a virtual assistance company that offers administrative assistance to small businesses and specializes in grant writing/management. http://www.attentiveassistance.org