This week’s guest post comes from Marketwave’s client services’ intern, Ruby Camarillo. During college, I had a professor who would yell “research, research, research!” at the top of his lungs each lecture. He would bang on the table and passionately lecture us on the importance of research for even the smallest campaigns. It was frightening, to say the least, but not as frightening as the idea of spending an entire day researching. Let’s be honest: this fundamental step in any campaign is time-consuming, often not too fun and can sometimes yield little results. But with a fresh cup of coffee, a fully charged computer and these five tips, you can boost your researching skills and save yourself from a headache or two.
- Brainstorm on paper first: Unless you plan on heading to your local library to check out an encyclopedia, chances are you’ll be researching online. Online research is great, but constantly looking at your screen can cause eye fatigue and limit your productivity. Make a list of everything you need to research and check off the topics as you complete them. Writing out a “to-do” list tricks the brain into working harder because there is a visual cue of everything that must be completed, or try this approach using Post-It notes and a whiteboard.
- Build a spreadsheet: Before you hit the search engines, make an Excel spreadsheet where you can organize your findings. How you format the sheet is up to you, but as a general rule, you should have the name of the article, a link and a notes section where you can annotate a few key points the article.
- Know your keywords: If you’re not using the right keywords in your search, your research will suffer. Let’s say your client produces cat toys and you’re searching for upcoming trends in the cat world. Searching “new cat toys” will generate millions of pages where you can purchase toys, which is not what you’re looking for. Searching with keywords and phrases such as “cat toy trends in 2014,” “interesting cat toys” or “pet industry trends” will generate better results. Finding keywords that churn out relevant content will help significantly cut down your research time.
- Go back to school: Remember when you were in college and would go through the bibliography in one great article to find another great article, and then continue until you had compiled your research? Well, young you had a good system in place as this a great way to find multiple credible sources at once and quickly build your research spreadsheet. Be sure to check out your local college’s website as many colleges have free access to their online library where you can find scholarly articles and other credible sources.
- Set a time limit: After researching the same topic for a while, everything you click on seems to look the same and your brain goes on autopilot. Set a time limit to your research, and then move on to another task for 10 to 15 minutes before coming back to your research. Often I research in one-hour intervals because I find my focus begins to weaken after an hour. Once I hit an hour, I take a break from researching to check and respond to emails or work on another project for a bit before coming back. Even if you switch to another research project your brain will appreciate the opportunity to focus on a different topic.
By planning out your research strategy you’ll learn to love (or at least like) research! Have you ever used any of these pointers or do you have our own research tips? Feel free to share them below, we’d love to hear them!