Research skills are highly valued by employers in all industries, because employees with strong research skills can be invaluable to a company’s performance and growth.
This article will explore what research skills are and why they are important, identify some core research skills and explain how you can develop them, and answer some frequently asked questions.
Research skills enable you to effectively find and gather appropriate information, then analyze and apply it to find solutions to solve problems.
Research skills are crucial for every industry and can be extremely useful in any role. They consist of a range of other soft skills that come together to be more than the sum of their parts.
Possessing research skills makes you very useful to an employer, as you can successfully research competitors, get information to form marketing or sales plans and spot potential problems in the business that require attention.
Some of these soft skills include attention to detail, communication and problem-solving, among others.
No matter what your job is, or what industry you’re in, research skills will be extremely beneficial to you and the business.
For example, even if you work in a restaurant, it will be useful to research local competitors or exciting new ingredients to try on your menu.
Another example, within the retail sector, is that you may need to research to find out your customer satisfaction rate and therefore identify any issues with your team’s performance.
Further, research skills are essential to corporate or commercial roles, as these roles may require you to identify issues causing a drop in your team's performance and work out the tasks that must be completed to reach your goal.
Additionally, you may also be required to analyze large amounts of data and identify key issues and work out how to solve them.
The best research is conducted by analyzing data from online resources, books, surveys or other sources.
It’s important that you only use credible resources when you are collecting your data. Make sure that you’re not relying on largely opinion-based information or information from someone who lacks the right qualifications to be considered an authority.
You may also come across a lot of irrelevant data when you are conducting research. One important research skill is knowing how to discern the most relevant data and discard the rest.
Another important skill for research is data collection.
This is different from collating information from other sources, as data collection requires you to conduct your own research. For example, you would run your own surveys on your customers or derive data from their social media, instead of relying on others to do so.
Many employers value this skill within their employees.
The ability to collect hard-to-find data is not one that everyone possesses and is often considered a more advanced skill.
It takes a great deal of know-how to be able to run efficient, effective and ethical research and to only collect relevant information to answer your questions.
Note-taking is more than it sounds – it is an essential skill for research.
It would be almost impossible to conduct a large amount of research and be able to recite the information from memory, or even be able to recall where to look for certain information.
Therefore, knowing how to take effective notes is a necessary skill. If you take your notes , you can more easily search them later and share findings with others.
Research skills are a factor that recruiters will look at because they are important; here are some reasons why.
Whatever your industry, you are likely selling something to consumers or providing a service, at least sometimes.
Further, no matter what your business model is, you have to keep on top of your customer satisfaction. Their word-of-mouth affects your future bottom line.
Using research skills to identify problems with your consumer satisfaction rate is, therefore, essential.
Such research will let you know where improvements need to be made and will provide you with the starting blocks of a plan to solve the issue.
By collecting information about your competitors, such as on their plan for the next quarter, you can alter your company or team's actions to counteract them and come out on top.
You can look into their sales tactics for a glimpse into their future plans, or look at online reviews their customers have left to find weak spots.
This information about your competitors can be implemented to identify key issues that your team or business needs to work on.
Recruiters often look for strong research skills in candidates. Having them makes you more of a desirable employee.
These skills show them that you can take initiative and learn about new things.
This is considered a good quality in a candidate, because it means you can be left to your own devices more often without constant supervision and trusted to not only complete your work but also find ways to do it better.
Having advanced research skills also enables you to improve your personal productivity and the general productivity of the company.
Research skills can be applied to improving a company’s processes to make them more efficient.
Additionally, you can research skills to find ways the company can improve its employees' satisfaction.
Here are some of the core skills required for conducting high-quality research.
Recording information, such as in the form of notes or audio/visual recordings, is an essential skill required for research.
Whenever you come across an important piece of information that is relevant to your research question, you must record it in some way. This will make it much easier when you come to analyze and report on what you have found.
Simply reading information will not be enough for it to sink into your brain sufficiently to actually be a useful and analyzable resource.
Note-taking is one way of doing this, particularly for pre-existing information that you are collating, such as when you are performing a business literature review for a white paper.
Making recordings of meetings is another way, as you can refer back to them in the future and may be able to distill new information from them.
Another key skill here is knowing what information is important.
Make sure that you fully understand why you’re collecting your data and what question you are trying to answer.
This will ensure you only collect the necessary information in your research and don’t infringe on your participants’ right to privacy.
Additionally, when you are collating information from other sources, knowing what’s important means you don’t waste time following dead ends.
Another key skill is knowing how to find reputable, external sources and collect data.
A common mistake people make when researching is taking too much from one source: if you don’t stretch your feelers far enough, your data collection may be too narrow, biased and potentially inaccurate.
Using a wide range of resources is the real secret to strong research. Some sources you can use to extend your research are:
- Published books
- Reputable websites
- Academic journals
- Library catalogues
You must learn to judge whether each source is reliable to keep your research accurate. Note the authors and publishers of the books, websites and newspapers you use, and see what else they’ve published to find what biases they have.
Data analysis is another advanced skill highly valued by recruiters.
The ability to spot patterns and trends in large amounts of data is an extremely useful skill to spot areas of weakness and strength within a team or a company.
It is a key component to work out areas that require development and where resources should be spent.
Online research is a skill that many people believe they are already acquainted with.
But that is like equating someone who types 'What are REITs?' into a search engine and reads a couple of articles with someone who digs deep into that initial information and derives key terms and search queries to find specific information about both the foundational and cutting-edge ideas of their topic.
Additionally, a skilled online researcher optimizes their time and energy to not be sucked into unreputable websites or to not waste a lot of time tracking down one specific piece of information.
Make sure that you familiarize yourself with which sources are credible and those which are not, so you don’t waste your time researching inaccurate information.
Lateral thinking means solving problems using solutions that are usually creative, new and unexpected. Rarely are these immediately obvious and may not be thought of through traditional logic.
You may be required to be creative and use lateral thinking to discover how to find the answer to the problem you are facing.
This is because it is very rare that the answers are clear and right in front of us.
More often than not, you’ll have to be innovative and take on a new approach for your research, even to find what question you should be asking before you can begin.
Before diving into something new, you should make an effort to understand the broader subject area surrounding your query.
You will become easily confused if you begin conducting your research without having a full understanding of the question you are trying to answer.
You must learn how to identify credible sources from untrustworthy ones.
Especially when you are conducting internet research, it’s easy to come across information from people who are not qualified to give it or from sources that have a hidden agenda.
Further, all sources have biases, and these must be accounted for when interpreting information from them.
Conducting your research on unqualified sources will likely lead to you analyzing incorrect data and coming to the wrong conclusion.
You may begin your research with an opinion already formed in your mind.
Be open to the fact that this might change as you do your research.
Sticking with one opinion often leads you to use sources biased only in one direction and therefore come to a biased conclusion.
Using sources that show different opinions will give you richer research and you’re more likely to end up with a well-rounded answer to your question.
Without keeping your information organized, you’ll wind up wasting a lot of time looking for information you’ve already come across.
A good way to keep track is to have a list of the sources you use and record the important information from that source.
This way you’ll easily be able to look up the information you’re looking for.
You can also note what else those sources may be useful for, as well as a section of the list for sources not necessary this time but may be in the future.
Don’t just limit yourself to doing research for work or academic purposes.
Keep researching topics you find interesting or may come in useful later down the down.
You can try taking free online courses if you prefer a more guided approach.
This proactivity will not only develop your research skills but will also generally improve your knowledge base, making you more employable.
A key skill of research is communicating your findings, often in the form of summarizing what you have found in a report.
You may have come across invaluable data, but that will be rendered useless if you are unable to effectively communicate what it means.
Reporting skills are a whole other skill on their own and are valued by employers.
Take time to develop good report writing skills and be open to feedback about the reports you have made at work and school.
Conducting a lot of research can cause people to sway away from their research questions as new information comes to light or you uncover new areas that require deep research.
However, if this happens, keep notes of these areas so that you can return to them in the future and then move back to the question at hand.
Remember your main task and return your attention to your research question.
When you’re applying for a role, always mention your research skills.
The key to doing this well is being specific. Give real examples of a time you used your research skills to provide some value to your team or the company.
“I used research skills to identify key problems within our customer satisfaction. I looked through our customer feedback and listened to customer calls to work out the areas we had to improve upon. My research identified weaknesses in our customer support team’s knowledge, so we implemented training and our customer satisfaction increased by 25% as a result”.
Where possible, include a metric showing objectively how much of a positive impact your research had.
Research skills should definitely be on your resume since they are valued by employers in every industry.
There are a few different ways that you can incorporate these into your resume.
If your skills are advanced and have been a primary duty in previous roles, you could dedicate a full section to research skills. Give detailed examples of the skills you possess and how they have served you within these roles.
If you possess some research skills but don’t have extensive examples of using them, then don’t spend as much space on them – include them in your skills section on your resume instead.
As long as they are listed on your resume somewhere, the recruiter will be aware of them.
When summarizing your research, you should only include the most relevant information.
Remember to always refer to the original problem or question at hand and make the information easy to read and follow.
Your report should also include some next steps based on your findings.
The most important element to research is report writing.
Your research will be void if you are unable to compile the information clearly and communicate your findings.
Reporting is a skill that you will need to develop through practice.
Speak to your colleagues and ask for advice on how to improve your reporting techniques.
These skills can be invaluable and increase your employability.
The ability to tell good sources from bad is one not everyone possesses.
However, it’s crucial to conduct high-quality research.
In general, you want to know who is telling you this information and why – what is their goal in telling you?
Further, you should aim to ascertain if they have any expertise in the area, either from certification, years of learning and practicing or lived experience.
You’re most at risk of accessing untrustworthy sources on the internet.
Anyone can post whatever information they like on the internet, and it can be very easy to come across.
Look out for the writer’s credentials at the bottom of the article to confirm its validity.
Also take a look at the publication's ‘About’ section to find out more about them and work out if you should use the information as authoritative.
Research skills are useful and transferable.
They make it possible to work smarter in the long term.
Adding them to your toolkit has a wealth of advantages, but they do require diligence and perseverance.
It’s crucial that you are aware of what good research skills are, so that you can put time and effort into improving them.
Additionally, take note of instances when you have used research skills to reach certain goals, whether it’s in school, at work or in your personal life.
As well as giving you examples to put on an application, this will also show you research skills are always beneficial.