Research Skills

Introduction  

Research is for the curious. It’s for the ones seeking answers, information, and new pathways. If this is you and you want to learn more about research skills, including how to improve yours, you’re in the right place.  

We believe the notion of research is a challenging one (irrespective of the field), but at the same time, it’s highly rewarding. We’re constantly on the lookout for new concepts, creative outlets, and topics to explore. At the same time, we’re also finding ways to be better at the actual research process, that is, we're finding ways to upgrade our research skills. 

Wernher von Braum said: “Research is what I'm doing when I don’t know what I’m doing”.

While that may be true, we actually want to teach you to know what you’re doing and what you’re supposed to be doing. In other words, with this article, we hope we’ll make you consciously aware of the power of your research skills and the implications they have. 

Let’s start, shall we? 

What Are Research Skills?

According to the University of the People

Research is a type of study that focuses on a specific problem and aims to solve it using scientific methods. Research is a highly systematic process that involves both describing, explaining, and predicting something.

[...]

Research skills are what helps us answer our most burning questions, and they are what assist us in our solving process from A to Z, including searching, finding, collecting, breaking down, and evaluating the relevant information to the phenomenon at hand.

In other words, research is a systematic investigation of a particular issue and research skills are the skills we need in order to take part in that investigation. Research skills are very interesting as they’re quite versatile. They denote having expertise in performing various different things such as analyzing, measuring, interviewing, evaluating, remembering, comparing, and so on. 

They also include soft skills such as work ethic, time management, problem-solving skills, creative thinking, leadership and teamwork skills, flexibility, and others. 

Overall, there are many skills and qualifications out there which may come in handy when we’re carrying out any type of research. And we can say that a lot of them fall under the umbrella term of research skills. Some of them may seem easy, others may pose a challenge, but one thing is certain - the more skills we’re good at, the better and more detailed our research practice will be. 

Research Examples 

There are many research papers, experiments, trials, and laboratory studies out there from different fields, so it’d be impossible to include an example from each one. Yet, we still wanted to add several relevant examples to illustrate our theoretical standpoints throughout the article. 

That’s why we decided to share some of the most influential psychological experiments in history. They’re so famous that they’re still taught to today’s psychology students. 

Here they are! 

1. Kitty Genovese Case

Study conducted by: New York Police Force

Study conducted in: 1964 in New York City

Details about the experiment: Kitty Genovese’s murder was never intended to become a psychological experiment, but it ended up showing the same fascinating results regarding human behavior. 

Namely, according to a New York Times article, around 40 neighbors are said to have witnessed Genovese being seriously attacked and then murdered in Queens, New York in 1964. However, not a single one of the neighbors called for help. There are some claims that suggest that the attacker left the “scene” for a short time, and then returned to “finish what he started”. Later on, there were other reports that suggested that there were likely only a dozen witnesses and some may have made calls to the police. 

However, what this event came to symbolize was as follows: the more bystanders there are in a specific social situation, the less likely it is that anyone will actually step in and offer help. This became known as the “Bystander effect”. This brought about a lot of changes in medicine, psychology, and various other areas. 

2. Ross’ False Consensus Effect Study 

Study conducted by: Lee Ross 

Study conducted in: 1977 at Stanford University 

Details about the experiment: Back in 1977, Lee Ross, a professor in social psychology at Stanford University, carried out an experiment that focused on how people may incorrectly come to the conclusion that others think the same way they do (in which case they form a so-called “false consensus” about others’ beliefs). Ross carried out this specific study to see how the “false consensus effect” works in humans. 

In the first part of this study, the participants were asked to take a look at situations in which there was some conflict and were told two ways of responding to the specific situation. They had to do three things: 

  • to guess the option the other people would pick; 
  • to say which option they would pick;
  • to describe the qualities of the person who would likely pick each of the two options.

The study showed that most of the participants believed that the other people will do the same as them, irrespective of which of the two responses they will end up choosing. This phenomenon is known as “the false consensus effect”, where individuals think that others think like them. 

Another interesting observation about this study was when the participants had to describe the qualities of the people who were likely to make the choice opposite of their own. Namely, they ended up making very negative assumptions about the personalities of the people who didn’t see eye to eye with them. 

3. The Marshmallow Test 

Study conducted by: Walter Mischel 

Study conducted in: 1972 at Stanford University 

Details about the experiment: Walter Mischel from Stanford University was interested in learning whether deferred gratification can be a potential indicator of future success. So, in his so-called 1972 Marshmallow experiment, the following took place: children (ages 4-6) were taken to a room in which a marshmallow was placed on the table in front of them. Before the experimenter left the room, he let each one of them know they would receive a second marshmallow if the first one was still on the table after they returned in fifteen minutes. 

The examiner actually recorded how long each child was able to resist eating the marshmallow. Also, they would observe whether this had any correlation with the child’s success in adulthood. Allegedly, 600 children ate the marshmallow right away, whereas one-third delayed gratification long enough so that they received the second marshmallow. 

In the follow-up studies, Walter Mischel discovered that those who managed to defer gratification were far more competent and even had higher SAT scores than their peers. This meant that this characteristic stuck with that person for life. While this may be a rather simple study, the outcome suggests that some of the key differences in individual traits are actually responsible for one’s success. 

Research Skills Definition 

Research skills are:

  • the ability “to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought” (Albert Szent-Gyorgyi); 
  • demonstrated in various ways: assignments, projects, tasks, dissertations, papers, articles, questionnaires, and other types of independent research; 
  • an intellectual undertaking;
  • denoting creative and systematic work; 
  • usually comprised of collecting, organizing, and analyzing information;
  • shaping our future; 
  • the capacity to search for, and then find relevant information in order to evaluate it later on for specific purposes; 
  • problem-solving skills (to conduct research, agree or disagree with previous findings, and to be able to express all that - you definitely need to be good at solving potential problems);
  • data collection skills (good research depends on collecting good data) ; 
  • planning and scheduling skills (research can’t be chaotic - there could be unplanned moments and spontaneous decisions, but most of the time it requires detailed planning); 
  • technical skills (computer proficiency is a huge asset) ; 
  • critical thinking skills (the research will be useless if the researcher doesn’t know how to link meaningful ideas, gathered data, and ideas); 
  • project management skills (especially handy when you need to manage projects in an orderly fashion); 
  • communication skills (research findings are frequently presented to others in a spoken form);
  • the capacity to identify and assess information. 

Research skills aren’t: 

  • plagiarism and stealing someone else’s research findings; 
  • ignoring facts and arguments which may not comply with your initial point of view; 
  • your personal opinion (they usually need to be backed up by relevant claims); 
  • always straight-forward;
  • supposed to be biased (it’s all about being as impartial as you can); 
  • random assumptions; 
  • always clear and manageable at first (research comes with many challenges and obstacles one needs to overcome). 

The History of Research Skills 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “research” comes from the Middle French recerche, from recercher to go about seeking, from Old French recerchier, from re- + cerchier, sercher to search. The earliest record use of the word was in 1577 as a noun, and in 1588 as a verb. 

But even without knowing much history, it’s not difficult to form associations with the term “research”. After all, how many researchers are there? Countless! 

And research skills go hand in hand with research and researchers.

There’s a lot to be said about the history of research skills and the different types of research. It really is a versatile field that doesn’t stop growing and expanding. 

There’s scientific research, which refers to the systematic way of gathering information and data. Then, there’s research in the humanities, which includes various methods such as semiotics or hermeneutics. This is so because scholars in the humanities don’t search for a single answer - they explore all the details and options surrounding it. And there’s also artistic research, which is frequently referred to as “practice-based research” because it denotes creative works as both the research and the actual object of research at the same time. These are the most common categories. 

However, keep in mind that they have subcategories. For instance, Patricia Leavy discusses a range of arts-based research genres such as poetry, music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, fiction-based research, and narrative inquiry.  

There are many representatives (that is, researchers) from each one. For example, Maurice Ralph Hilleman, an American microbiologist who specialized in vaccinology. Leopold von Ranke, a German historian, was regarded as one of the founders of modern source-based history.  And even if we go back to ancient Greece, there’s Aristotle who devised the scientific method. 

Why Are Research Skills Important? 

Research skills are important because they help people engage in a detailed analysis,  investigate matters, and discover new information. They help people link meaningful ideas and find out what these ideas can create. Research skills are important because they help us identify potential problems that may hinder progress, performance, and overall success. 

They basically allow us to reach breakthroughs. We can make an important discovery, solve certain “mysteries”, satisfy our curiosity, and do so much more. Of course, it all depends on the type of research we’re dealing with along with our qualifications (as you’ll see later on, we believe research is part of our everyday lives and it can include a lot of basic “stuff” - it really doesn’t have to be formal and/or solely scientific). 

Also, research skills allow us to find the necessary resources, people, information, ideas, and inspiration to undertake a specific project. Having the necessary skills means we’re ready to deliver quality and effectiveness, and come up with relevant suggestions. 

Research skills are also important because they allow for a better educational experience (here we refer to the lessons we learn through our everyday lives, not the formal school system), and we’re able to continuously see their effects. They’re an amazing exercise for the mind, and at the same time, they nourish our curiosity. 

Research skills are part of every phase of our lives - whether it’s school, university, or our daily workplace. In essence, they’re a useful “tool” for facilitating learning and building up knowledge. They don’t need to be way too advanced or complicated - we just need to embrace those we have and strive to upgrade them even more.

That said, research skills are important even in non-research contexts. They enrich our life, they contribute to a better understanding of life, and they make us more intelligent. They even help us make better decisions, communicate with others, and understand other people’s perceptions. Overall, they bring about a more detailed outlook on things. 

How to Develop Research Skills? 

There are many ways to develop and further improve your already existing research skills. Even engaging in research itself helps you boost your skills and prepare for your next research undertaking. 

To start with, you need to be persistent in all you do: collecting data, not stepping away when someone says “no”, not giving up when it seems you did everything wrong, and so on. Persistence is the key to successful research. You could be curious, smart, and resourceful, but if you’re not persistent enough, you won’t get to see the results of your research. 

Then, you need to always verify information from several sources (this is especially true for stuff published on the Internet, where everybody has the freedom to write what they want). So, never rely on a single source and always double-check things. This will come in handy in everyday life too! 

Also, work on your organization skills. A badly organized researcher will face many challenges and obstacles which can easily be skipped if they're organized (for instance, bad time management can bring about delays, badly calculated deadlines, and so on). 

To develop your research skills, you need to be open to surprising twists of events and the unknown. Sometimes answers may arrive from the least expected direction, and those will be the ones that just may solve your “research mystery”. 

Also, other times you may be faced with challenges and unexpected obstacles along the way. So try to develop patience and fearlessness. Let’s explain this a bit metaphorically using a quote by Ruth Westheimer - “My favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that in order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out. There are going to be times in your life when you’re going to have to stick your neck out. There will be challenges and instead of hiding in a shell, you have to go out and meet them.”

Finally, keep the writing process in mind. Every good researcher needs to have a solid set of writing skills because they’re expected to convey their results, findings, and initial hypotheses in an understandable manner. 

Examples of Research Skills in Everyday Life

Education 

There are many ways to incorporate research into the educational system. First of all, you may include previous research findings and elaborate on them. You can also encourage your pupils/students to engage in research. Both apply across all levels of education. Of course, the way teachers should approach them will depend on several factors. 

Firstly, you wouldn’t discuss the same research with first graders as you would in university. You’ll use much more advanced methods, findings, and you’ll ask the university students much more detailed questions. When it comes to pupils - all you need to do is to encourage curiosity and make them question the things they read and hear.  

Secondly, when it comes to actually asking them to do research, yet again, you’ll approach this differently. You’ll ask basic research stuff in a middle school context (for instance, pupils can do research in their family and interview their parents and siblings and write down what they’ve discovered). 

If you’re dealing with high school students, you can ask something more advanced (such as having them do experiments and/or interviews and observe their findings for a while). 

And if you’re teaching university students, then the requirements and the expectations here are the highest. University students are expected to write essays (sometimes even research papers), undergraduate and postgraduate theses, and so on. 

Finally, we should take the concept of research in education with a grain of salt. There are many aspects to it - it should not be forced at all costs, but it also shouldn’t be neglected. Dylan William touched on some points about the role of research in education: 

Teachers need to know about research, to be sure, so that they can make smarter decisions about where to invest their time, but teachers, and school leaders need to become critical consumers of research – using research evidence where it is available and relevant, but also recognising that there are many things teachers need to make decisions about where there is no research evidence, and also realising that sometimes the research that is available may not be applicable in a particular context.

How to approach this? 

  • How do you feel you demonstrate your research skills within an academic context? What research opportunities are there? And more importantly, are you willing to take initiative and actually apply them? 
  • How do you formulate a research question? Can you think of some good research questions? What is a good research title? Think of several examples. 
  • Do you feel the overall education system that you’re currently part of encourages independent research and learning on one’s own? What are your thoughts about it? 
  • Is your education more focused on theory rather than on practice? If yes, are you fine with it? What would you change? 
  • Do you feel research should be encouraged from an early age? Also, how do you think teachers should expose their pupils to it? 
  • What’s the most challenging part about being a student? How do you suggest overcoming it?  
  • When you took part in research projects in school/ at university, do you think you used your full capacity? How can you tell?
  • Do you think having a solid teacher/professor is more important than the institution? 
  • Do you feel research conducted within an educational context should always be mentored? How much of a say do you think mentors should have? 
  • How can creativity be more encouraged in schools/at universities? What steps would you take? Make a list with several suggestions that could actually be implemented in practice. 
  • Do you think critical thinking plays an important part in education (all three levels) or not? If not, how can it be better encouraged? Think of several methods that students will find acceptable and interesting. 
  • How can the educational system step away from “serving” students so much theory and become more practical and reflect real-life scenarios? 

Business 

Research in business is important because it brings money. In other words, the point behind business research is to acquire detailed information that will assist you in maximizing profit and sales. As Charles F. Kettering said, 

Research is an organized method of trying to find out what you are going to do after you cannot do what you are doing now. It may also be said to be the method of keeping a customer reasonably dissatisfied with what he has. That means constant improvement and change so that the customer will be stimulated to desire the new product enough to buy it to replace the one he has.

There are many ways to conduct research in your business sector. First of all, you need to determine whether your business idea is feasible to start with (which requires research by default). You need to consider the potential competitors, target audience, income strategies, and so much more. 

You’ll come back to these aspects even after you’ve started your business, however, this only shows you that business research is an ongoing process. You should always strive to keep up with the latest business trends, marketing strategies, social media news, raising brand awareness, and so on. 

Businesses also need to conduct research to see whether they can succeed in a new geographic region, target new buyers, and even assess their overall performance so far. Also, when it comes to launching new products or preparing a new marketing campaign, research is crucial. 

For instance, you need to analyze already existing campaigns about similar products and how they’ve been received. Plus, you need to come up with something original; something that will reflect your brand. 

Finally, don’t forget that some of the best ways to carry out proper research for your business is to speak to your clients directly. You can prepare questionnaires, surveys, analyze customer data, and so on. 

How to approach this? 

  • In your opinion, what’s the hardest part about conducting business research? 
  • How do you think customers perceive your brand?
  • What do you think is the main thing customers notice about your product/service? Why? 
  • How do you evaluate the size of the market? How many potential customers are currently there? 
  • What key customer trends do you pay attention to? Is there something you may be missing out on? 
  • Have you considered finding marketing partners to help you expand your reach? In general, what do you think about business partnerships? 
  • Do you ask your customers:
    • how they heard about you; 
    • what made them choose you and your brand; 
    • what they think about your products/services; 
    • what they wish you’d change about your brand (if anything); 
    • how satisfied they are with your brand  overall; 
    • if they’ve ever conducted a problem with your products/services/employees; 
    • if they decided to leave a review/testimonial on your website (and if not, why?); 
  • How can you create more value to justify all your prices? Also, what about your competitors? Are they charging more, less, or just about the same? Finally, do your current prices allow you to have sufficient profit so that you can stay in business? Is there any way for you to cut costs? 
  • Are there any opportunities you may be missing out? How can you put yourself and your business more out there? What steps do you need to take? 
  • What’s the best way to get feedback about your current products/services? 
  • Have you checked how much web traffic you get as opposed to your competitors? How do you rank on Google and/or Bing? Also, how much do you invest in SEO in general? 
  • Do you have any negative reviews online? How do you feel about them? Have you tried getting in touch with the clients who wrote them? If yes, have you found their feedback helpful (for instance, to make some changes so that such negative reviews don’t happen again)? 

Human Psychology 

Human psychology and behavior aren’t of interest only to psychologists, psychiatrists, and scholars. In fact, they have much deeper implications for “ordinary” people in their everyday lives. In other words, exploring human psychology in a non-academic manner is as important as its more formal context. 

We observe people, we monitor their behavior, we follow their actions, listen to their thoughts and opinions, and analyze their body language. And afterward, that’s how we form opinions about specific people. 

We know whether someone is lying or not based on their gestures, facial expressions, and the overall interaction. We can tell if someone is ashamed, embarrassed, or sad based on the eye contact connection. For instance, according to a Forbes article, “we reduce eye contact when we are talking about something shameful or embarrassing, when we are sad or depressed, and when we are accessing internal thoughts or emotions”. 

We notice the “good feelings” in a similar manner too. Someone's smile shows they're welcoming and open. Someone’s joyful laughter tells us they’re having a happy day. A person who runs to hug us as soon as they see us shows us they love our presence. 

There are many such examples, and we don’t need to have formal knowledge to be able to decipher a person’s specific behavior. Of course, having an interest in exploring such matters further is always an asset, but we’re able to understand most of these behaviors based on our previous experiences, intuitive feelings, and common sense. 

As soon as something catches our attention, our mind engages in an ongoing “research process” to find the answers it seeks. As Marcus Aurelius put it: “Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life”. 

Overall, the decisions we make on a daily basis where we choose: how to treat each person, what to say in a specific situation, how to understand what our family members are implying, and how to know whether our kids are lying to us or not, are probably some of the most important decisions. This is so because they require a specific type of research - not a scientific one, but one that’s based upon our inner knowing. 

How to approach this? 

  • How do you know you can trust a specific person? 
  • How open are you with others when it comes to sharing secrets, expressing worries and problems? And - vice versa - how open are you to others sharing their own stuff with you? 
  • What makes a person trustworthy and reliable? Make a list of five characteristics. 
  • How much do you rely on a person’s body language during an interaction? Do you find it helpful or not? Why? 
  • Do you think you’re manipulated easily? If yes, why do you think that happens? What is it about you that attracts such people? Also, if this happens frequently, what steps can you take to change this? And if you don’t have such a problem, do you maybe tend to be the one that manipulates others? If yes, why? 
  • If you find out someone lied to you, would you confront them? If yes, how would you do it? And if you decide not to do it, what’s the reason behind it? 
  • What’s the first thing you notice when you meet someone? What’s so special about “that thing”? Why? What does it tell you about people? Also, what’s the first thing people notice when they meet you (in case someone told you)? 
  • What makes a person “good”? Also, what makes a person “bad”? Try to answer these questions according to your personal beliefs and values. 
  • What are some unethical things people do and you strongly disapprove of? Why?
  • What questions do you need to ask someone in order to get to know them properly? 
  • How long does it take you to form a deeper bond with someone? Are you the type of person who immediately opens up to people, or you need time to get to know someone first? 
  • How do you know if a person is living a meaningful life? What clues and criteria are there that can help you form an opinion about this? 

Famous Quotes about Research Skills  

“No research is ever quite complete. It is the glory of a good bit of work that it opens the way for something still better, and this repeatedly leads to its own eclipse.”

- Mervin Gordon 

“Research ... is nothing but a state of mind-a friendly, welcoming attitude toward change; going out to look for a change instead of waiting for it to come. Research, for practical men, is an effort to do things better.... The research state of mind can apply to anything-personal affairs or any kind of business, big or little.”

- Charles F. Kettering 

“I salute the workers in physical research as the poets of today. It may be that they do not write in verse, but their communications are of such lively interest that they are on the front pages of our newspapers and command space in agricultural periodicals. They appeal to the imagination of us all. They contribute the warming glow of inspiration to industry, and when industry pulls their ideas down from the heavens to the earth and harnesses them for practical service, it, too, feels that it is an important actor, not only in the makings of things but on the larger stage of human spirit. There may be enough poetry in the whir of our machines so that our machine age will become immortal.”

- Owen D. Young 

“Research shows that the climate of an organization influences an individual's contribution far more than the individual himself.”

- W. Edwards Deming 

“If you want to make unique discoveries, you do not follow the crowd.” 

Steven Magee

“Research can be both lonely and rewarding. I would encourage research in areas that are of interest to the researcher and not that which is currently popular. Any research of note is not going to happen overnight and your interest will keep you dedicated.”

- Ian R. McAndrew 

“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject... And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them... Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”

- Seneca

“The hardest part of research is always to find a question that’s big enough that it’s worth answering, but little enough that you actually can answer it.” 

Edward Witten

“Research is the reconnaissance party of industry, roving the unknown territories ahead independently, yet not without purpose, seeing for the first time what all the following world will see a few years hence.”

- S. M. Kinter 

“Research is like swimming. If you stop swimming you will never make it to the other side. If you stop researching you will never make it to discovery.” 

Steven Magee

“Research teaches a man to admit he is wrong and to be proud of the fact that he does so, rather than try with all his energy to defend an unsound plan because he is afraid that admission of error is a confession of weakness when rather it is a sign of strength.”

- H.E. Stocher

“Research is about following the gleam into the dark. It's also about being sensitive enough to know which fact is "the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders," as opposed to the fact that deadens and kills a delicate new project.”

- Lauren Groff 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

What skills are needed for writing a research paper?

Let’s be honest - writing a research paper isn’t a walk in the park. It's a hard word, it takes a lot of days to achieve it (sometimes even months, depending on the scope of the research), and you can easily end up feeling frustrated and overworked rather than being enthusiastic about it. 

That said, there are certain skills you can “master” or at least become aware of which may help you in your writing process. Here are the most important ones: 

Analytical thinking

This is probably one of the crucial skills. Proper analytical thinking enables you to analyze greater chunks of information and be as objective as you can. Also, you’re able to comprehend content from various sources and also incorporate it within your own work accordingly. 

Moreover, you’re expected to develop complex arguments, provide facts, and defend your views, so working on your analytical thinking skills is definitely beneficial. 

Critical thinking 

The whole purpose behind writing a research paper (regardless of the area you’re researching) is to come to new conclusions, discover new knowledge, and/or refute other claims. To do this, you need to work on your critical thinking skills. 

Also, make sure you keep all your claims and newly found arguments backed by relevant research and facts so that your paper is credible. Again, you need to rely on your critical thinking in order to handle this both academically and scientifically. 

Creativity 

Being creative can be a great addition. This especially comes in handy on those days when you perceive your paper as boring. Research papers can be fun if we approach them that way! 

You can come up with relevant metaphorical phrases, play with words, express yourself more freely at times, and of course, challenge conventional research writing formats (when this is allowed). 

Explanation skills 

Your research paper needs to be concise and clear at all times. You don’t want to “lose” the readers somewhere along the way or make them give up reading your paper. 

It may sound strange, but not everybody is able to clearly express their thoughts and views. So, expand your vocabulary and work on expressing yourself more clearly! 

Ability to categorize 

This is especially significant in the stage where you gather all the necessary information, look at previous papers dealing with the same subject, and do some further independent research (so more or less, we’re talking about the initial stages). 

So, after you gather all of these, you need to sort them out in different categories and organize them in a way that you’ll be able to access them very quickly if/when you need them. 

Time management 

Writing a research paper takes time. This is very clear, but how you manage your time - now that’s a different story. Managing your time well allows you to fully dedicate yourself to your research endeavors and the actual writing of the paper.

This is very closely linked to having solid organizational skills. If you’re well organized, you’ll have no problem finding the time to sit down and write the research paper. 

IT skills 

Of course, you don’t need to be an IT engineer to write a research paper, but being familiar with some basic stuff, such as doing online questionnaires to gather data, conducting online interviews, engaging in web-based experiments, and so on, will surely come in handy. 

Familiarity with the format, and instructions 

This refers to citing sources, knowing how to paraphrase, differentiating between plagiarism and citation as well as in-text citations and embedded ones, listing your sources in a bibliography, closely following the instructions, and so on. 

Getting comfortable with your paper’s format enables you to feel better about writing the paper in the first place. Plus, having this knowledge will also be useful for any type of academic assignment you may work on in the future.  

Finally, don’t forget you are expected to have the necessary qualifications to produce a specific research paper from a particular field. Although this should be common sense, a lot of times people believe they have enough knowledge from certain areas, so they feel that makes them qualified to write a paper. This, of course, may end up being a big problem because their paper’s findings may end up spreading incorrect information and even mislead potential readers. 

What does it mean to be a good researcher?

There’s a tendency to connect the word “researcher” to scientists (and scientists only). Even the Lexico Dictionary defines it as “a person who carries out academic or scientific research”. 

That said, we believe that a researcher is every person who’s trying to discover and prove something, or verify some sort of information. And to do all of these successfully - you need to be a good researcher. 

Now, what does it mean to be a good researcher? Here are our thoughts about it: 

A good researcher is open-minded. 

Every good researcher is expected to be open to new ideas (even from sources they may not have been inclined toward in the past). They should never come to conclusions before double-checking everything too. 

A good researcher is truly passionate about their work. 

This is probably one of the key things - if you’re not truly passionate about the subject you’re researching, then there’s no point in engaging in it. Passion is the driving force behind detailed and well-developed pieces of research. It’s what keeps researchers going even when they feel like giving up. 

A good researcher is willing to consult their peers.  

Discussing matters with peers and colleagues can open doors to new possibilities, findings, and options you weren’t able to notice before. A lot of people think that if they end up asking for help, they classify as failures. This couldn't be further from the truth though. 

Sometimes a short conclusion with a fellow colleague might be just the inspiration you need to get a breakthrough (or to simply reach a new level of awareness and perceive your research from a different point of view). 

A good researcher isn’t afraid of being wrong. 

This is closely connected to what we’ve just discussed - the concept of consulting others and asking for help. Good researchers aren’t afraid of being wrong because they understand that being wrong is just another stage in the research process. It’s what signals what went wrong so that you can get things right. 

Basically, there’s nothing wrong as long as you keep going. 

A good researcher never stops learning. 

This is yet another important quality of a good researcher. A good researcher never stops learning, exploring, upgrading, and re-evaluating. You can never move forward intellectually if you’re not willing to learn new things, take a look at the latest research trends, and so on. And it’s entirely up to you how much time you’re willing to spend doing this. 

A good researcher is interested in learning the truth. 

Isn’t this the point of any research? To learn the truth and then spread it out so that others can benefit from it as well? There isn’t a fixed time frame when it comes to research. Research isn’t a race. It shouldn't be rushed. So, no matter how much time it takes you to arrive at your conclusion, know that it’s worth it in the end. 

What are digital research methods? 

Digital research methods refer to the ways in which researchers can gather data through the Internet. And considering the digital era we live in, we dare say these methods are pretty much important. 

A lot of them are directly linked to already existing traditional research methodologies, but they’ve been adjusted to suit current digital needs. In other words, they’ve been reinvented and/or reimagined in the light of the new Internet conditions and technologies.

That said, it’s important to note that this field is constantly evolving and undergoing changes as technology and digital media are changing too. Analyzing a bunch of digital stuff (such as social media, for instance) can give us valuable insights into consumer segments, societal opinions and views, and so much more. It really is an invaluable source of information. 

Another practical example comes from the field of medical research and the option to have access to ongoing online clinical trials - such as the ones the Journal of Medical Research provides. They’re all just a click away! And there are many such examples. 

Overall, such methods include: 

  • cyber-ethnography; 
  • social network analysis; 
  • web-based experiments; 
  • online questionnaires; 
  • online focus groups; 
  • online interviews; 
  • online qualitative research; 
  • online content analysis.

With these digital methods, it’s also interesting to take into account the participants' perspective too. For instance, participants in these types of research may feel much more comfortable with their overall involvement (it’s usually anonymous as it’s online, so there’s no need for any physical presence).

Also, it’s much easier to establish communication with hard-to-reach populations online than it is to try and “drag them” somewhere physically.  

Finally, conducting online research may prove to be much more cost-effective than conducting physical research. It’s also time-saving and overall it seems much more practical. 

Suggestions for Further Reading 

Research is all about reading and questioning what you’re reading. It’s about closely following what the author (or very often the researcher) is trying to say while questioning their true motives. Only then can you say that you’ve “mastered” the act of reading. 

Plus, sometimes the real challenge is to disagree with the book’s claims and/or take a stance (which may be difficult for some, as we tend to take things for granted when we see someone reputable claiming them). Then again, isn’t that the whole point of being challenged? To read these claims and then come up with some of your own? 

That said, whichever approach you have, below are twelve books to get you started on the matter. To inspire you to take this stance we’ve mentioned. 

So, which one are you reading first? 

  1. Research Skills: Analysing, Researching and Presenting, by Simon Moss 
  2. Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Argument, by Stella Cottrell 
  3. Research Skills for Teachers: From research question to research design, by Beverley Moriarty
  4. Smart Thinking: How to Think Conceptually, Design Solutions and Make Decisions, by Bryan Greetham
  5. Stand Out from the Crowd: Key Skills for Study, Work and Life, by Laura Dorian and Eleanor Loughlin
  6. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel
  7. Internet Research Skills, by Niall O Dochartaigh
  8. Planning Your Postgraduate Research, by M. Walshaw
  9. Your Research Project: Designing, Planning, and Getting Started, by Nicholas Walliman
  10. The Craft of Research (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing), by Wayne C. Booth
  11. Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, (Chicago Style for Students and Researchers), by Kate L. Turabian 
  12. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, by J. David Creswell and John W. Creswell 

Final Thoughts 

Having great research skills in today’s era where we're literally bombarded with a plethora of information is not only necessary but mandatory too. And no, you don’t need to be a researcher or very advanced at it - you just need to be able to “filter” all the information that reaches you and to be able to differentiate between what’s relevant and what isn’t; what’s true, what isn’t; what matters, what doesn’t. 

That said, there’s always something new to be learned and new research skills to be “perfected”. 

And while Dan Brown may have said that “Google is not a synonym for ‘research’”, we'd add that it can certainly teach you a lot about it. And we can, too! If you want to know how, don’t leave without checking our detailed online course on research skills. 

We cover so much and we really teach you a lot! Here’s what you can expect: 

  • understand how Google works; 
  • differentiate between quantitative data and qualitative data; 
  • understand the different types of research methods such as: philosophical, formal, empirical, and computational;
  • various critical thinking strategies; 
  • sharing your findings, why research ethics is important, and so on. 

Ready to embark on this new research adventure?