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January 12, 2013 / compassioninpolitics

How to learn to do more targeted and useful research for policy debate

I think 1/3rd of life is asking the right questions. Thats how you think deeper about things.

Research is one way you can get better at asking the right questions.

Generally….when doing a project like this you want to do:
1. General inquiries
2. Specific questions
And realize…..its not really just 2 categories….its really a continuum…..from general to kinda specific to really, really specific. But I think I spend the most time on #2.

So for instance, I might spend 2 to 4 minutes on the general search–and if nothing shows up or if I get a clue about an author or organization or research paper–I go deeper.

Oh…also…I will often do searches for:
• organizations that talk about X (I leave the world talk about out of the search). So “science diplomacy organizations”
• white papers or research about X

If your specific questions are good enough–it may be you don’t have to invest in specific questions as much.

When I think about questions & research I think about two things:
1. the exact question I want answered (and I may come up with 2 to 4 formulations of my question)
2. how authors might write about the topic. This is a little bit of intuition…partially done after years of research.

One other tip……in terms of search… the blue suggest links that you get from Google….can sometimes point you in the right direction when you
are kind of lost. (at the bottom of the page).

Also, in the back of my head….I segment by organization type:
1. media
2. nonprofit/association/research organization/think tank
3. education
You can segment this for yourself by doing advanced searches on Google advanced. You can also separate out .doc files and .pdf files….which are likely to have reports.

Over time you will develop an eye for the good and the bad–which will help speed up your process. But that takes time.

Its also a bit of patience….and exploring sites. I often hit publications, research, and sometimes I’ll hit resources. And then I look for anything that seems relevant.

1. Think in the terms that authors/publishers will use
2. Think by organization, which Google advanced can help you with
3. Thing general & specific (specific questions–although not necessarily in question form–because obviously authors don’t always write titles as questions). And pursue multiple searches.
4. The Google Advanced search
5. Google search suggest (both as you are typing….and at the bottom of the search results in blue)
6. Patience. Getting better over time. Doing lots of searches.

I hope this helps.


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