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Research Tips

Research Planning

* Define the problem (be clear on what you want)
* Develop the objective (why do you need this information? what do you plan to do with it?)
* Don't reinvent the wheel - see if anyone else has already done some of the research you need
* Anticipate the time frame (what internal and external deadlines exist?)
* Allocate resources, staff time, monetary expenses
* Have an accountability mechanism (keep checking in with the researcher, have clear deadlines)
* Prioritize needs
* Keep lines of communication open between researchers and organizers (each should impact the other)
* Organize your findings (keep in mind why you will want to go back to the information, this will help you organize it)
* Act on your knowledge (if you delay action to keep doing more research, you may have a problem)

General Research Tips

* It's Your Right to Know
* Build relationships and cultivate sources
* Become an expert
* Be persistent, if you don't find it the first time, try another source, search term, or tactic
* Follow the Money and the Family Tree
* Prepare for interviews and research trips
* Be very careful about accuracy (Is the source reliable? Get more than one source, if possible, especially when it's a controversial issue)
* Document and confirm your findings (keep copies of information you find)
* FOOTNOTE flyers!
* Be alert for "information opportunities"
* Make a realistic plan
* Organize the material you gather
* Don't ignore the obvious

Internet Research

* Look at the Help page!
* Understand the search protocols of the source you are using
* Truncate terms so you don't miss something (e.g., protest* will get you protester, protesters, protests, protested)
* If you don't come up with anything:
* Check the spelling
* Simplify the search (instead of Arthur Fuzak, search just Fuzak - he could be under A. Fuzak or Arthur F. Fuzak or Art Fuzak)
* Try another source
* Try another term (synonyms)
* Make sure you are using the right search protocol
* Make sure you have the right name (Goodwill Industries, not Goodwill Enterprises)
* If you come up with too much:
* Use the "Search within Results" function
* Search systematically (e.g., do a search on the name of the company and terms re environmental issues, then do another search on the company and labor, etc., rather than wading through everything on the company in one search).
* Narrow the search with other related terms that identify the search topic (product or type of industry, where the person/company is located, president or CEO of the company)
* Get to know one or two search engines and use "advance searching" techniques (proximity operators, boolean logic, date limits, etc. all make your searching more accurate and eliminate the bad hits)
* Look at the "Who we are" page - is the source reliable? Do they have a bias? Where do they get their data?
* Rather than surfing the web, get to know relevant web-sites and learn how to use them well
* If you find a good web-site, check their links page for other useful resources
* Special file formats (e.g., PDF) are usually not indexed in search engines, but may be indexed on the site's search engine (especially government agencies)
* Get to know relevant listserves and monitor (good for finding allies, keeping up on the issue, publicizing your campaign).

Library Research

* Talk to the Reference Librarian about what information you need (cultivate a relationship). Ask if there is a subject specialist in your area.
* Find the best search terms
Use proper subject headings (e.g., Library of Congress subject headings). Keep in mind other terms (synonyms)
* Check bibliographic resources (i.e., look for books on the subject, not just periodicals and reference books)
* Follow the footnotes
* Browse systematically (i.e., when you've found a useful source, browse the nearby shelves to find others on the same subject)
* Identify resources specific to your area of interest (e.g., industry reference books, trade journals)
* Ask for research guides and other handouts
* Ask to be shown how to use resources (including CD-ROMs & databases library subscribes to)
* Talk to another Reference Librarian


General Planning & Tips
Campaign Strategy
Ten Campaign Research Steps


Researching Corporations
Researching Individuals
Getting Public Records

Creating Surveys
Creando Encuestas (PDF)


Capturing Air Toxics 411
Challenging FTAA, NAFTA & WTO
Juvenile Justice in California


Company Information

Corporate Responsibility
Education & Schools
Elections 2004
Government Information
Money & Politics

Plan Puebla-Panamá (PPP) - English
Plan Puebla-Panamá (PPP) - Español
Prisons & Criminal Justice
Welfare & Economic Rights
Search Engines & Databases


Using Search Engines
Research & Language
Evaluating Documents

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