The Forgotten Art of Research

Photo cred: Troy Holden


It’s an art.  One that we practice for many years, but forcefully forget.

It’s something that was drilled into us since the first day of school.  If we wanted to learn something, we had to read about it in a boring, overpriced textbook.  We would then have to take a test, write a paper, or do something to prove that we actually did the research.

It sucked.

It sucked so much that the second that diploma is handed to you, you feel a huge sigh of relief knowing that you’ll never be forced to study again.  You can now spend the rest of your days reading what you want, and learn by doing.

Research is still valuable long after you graduate but you avoid it because it feels like homework.

The professionals and entrepreneurs that really go far are the ones taking in as much information as possible related to their topic.  If you want to be great at your job, you have to research the crap out of it.  Read books, blog posts, case studies…do anything you can to make yourself more savvy and get an edge.

BUT…relying on blogs or twitter to learn everything won’t cut it.

Bloggers don’t dig deep enough…and twitter lacks any depth whatsoever.  Google the term “research”.  The number 1 result is Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the cliff notes for the cliff notes.  They can all be great research tools but will only teach you so much.

Don’t forget about research.  It takes time and commitment.  It’s not easy to find the right information.  In the end though, it will pay off.

When was the last time you really researched something?  Has the art of research been forgotten?

If you have any good research tools or practices, share them in the comments.

13 thoughts on “The Forgotten Art of Research

  1. Ah, your post brought back memories of library research. I used to get up early and patiently wait for the university library to open so I could pore through obscure books on 19th century art history. Where have those days gone? Nowadays, it seems I’m penalized for spending more than five minutes to research a topic! Doesn’t it seem like we’re expected to get the same depth of information in 1/10th the time, and that somehow, that is Twitter’s fault?

    Thanks for giving me an excuse to go read the book I’ve been dying to crack but was having difficulty justifying the time to do so.

    1. Heidi, it’s interested because that’s definitely a trend that I saw change personally. By the time I made it to college, library books were hardly ever used. On a rare occasion, a teach might require that we use certain books but usually we’d go to the library, and use their databases to find scholarly journals. It sucked, but we really got to dig deep into a topic and had to pull together many different bits of information.

      I don’t think it’s twitters fault. Can’t blame the technology. It really comes down to how we function. We always want to cut down on time. Convenience is king, even at the sacrifice of depth and quality…it seems.

      What’s the book? I’m reading War of Art now. It’s amazing so far.

  2. Some bloggers don’t dig deep enough. Others very much do so. And even the ones that don’t dig deep, that doesn’t mean they don’t write deep posts. It depends if you want deeply researched topics or deeply motivated messages. Both have extreme value; they would be awesome together.

    Books are cool!

    1. Not talking so much about motivation focused blogs. Those are as deep as the reader wants to perceive it.

      For research based blogs, there are very few that dig deep. A good example of one that does dig deep is Brian Solis. I’d love to hear his take on how he approaches research for his posts.

      I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t read blogs, twitter, wikipedia etc… They’re great starting points. If you’re truly going to research something though, you really shouldn’t stop there.

  3. David, it seems that people have taken the power of research for granted. When one does research, you’re not just finding information but actually learning and living the subject matter. We live in a world of information overload and are kind of spoiled by it. Thanks for the reminder on conducting actual research.

    1. We are definitely spoiled. So much information is available to anyone.

      I recently heard someone say that the adage “knowledge is power” is dead. When everyone has the same quick and convenient access to information, it is no longer power.

      I guess the real power today, is when people learn and live a subject. There’s no quick and convenient way to do that, but it’s something no one can take from you.

  4. Hate to sound like a cranky old man (I’m 37) but when I went to college we didn’t have the internet. We had to go to the library – which to this day is still my favorite place. Most of my research is non-professional, but I still love to hide away in a cubicle with a stack of books and actively read. By “actively” read I mean read with a pen in hand taking notes.

    1. Back in my day! haha

      You’re right though. Even when I was in school (I just graduated in May), though much research was done on the internet, we still go to the library to study. There is definitely something special about finding a good spot in the library and cranking out some research. It just sucked because we were never there by choice.

      So we tend to lose that after school.

  5. Research in the communications profession is difficult because it takes up a lot of time, money and manpower. If done right though, well thought out and conducted research can yield amazing results.

    While studying PR, professors constantly drilled it into our heads that the profession grew from the social sciences and is based in primary and secondary research. The research group I worked in had 3 months to work on a project – in the business world, it can be very difficult to find that time, or very expensive to out-source that work. Secondary research becomes the go-to method.

    Saying research is an artform is hitting the nail on the head. When you have so little time to work with and there are so many sources available, it becomes difficult discerning what information is reliable. The expert researcher knows where, and how, to look. It’s something we get better with by practicing…a lot.

  6. Not too many people like to read period. I for one have so many blogs in my reader, some with depth and others with links to multiple sources so I can see both sides, but I am planning to read quite a few books on some subjects soon. I already kicked it off by reading a great book on the DC Metro(I’m starting an MPA in Community Development in the fall)

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