You might have come across situations at school where you need to research something. Maybe you’re making a presentation for class, gathering information for an essay, or revising for an upcoming exam.
But you might be surprised to learn that effective research skills will also come in handy in a wide range of careers.
'Employers want staff with great research skills. Find out why, and how you can develop yours'
In this guide we’ll take a look at what research skills are, why they matter at work and a few tips and tricks you can use to develop yours.
What are research skills?
In a nutshell, research skills means gathering information, then presenting it.
Researching might involve:
- Finding information from different sources, for example online or in textbooks.
- Using your critical thinking skills to analyse the information.
- Writing reports.
- Presenting your research to others.
The steps involved in most research projects include:
- Preparing: setting goals and making sure you know what you need to get out of the research projects.
- Finding: consulting lots of different sources in order to find the information you need.
- Selecting: identifying the information you really need and sifting out the info you don’t.
- Organising: sorting the research into a structure that makes sense.
- Presenting: pulling all the info together and communicating it.
- Evaluating: reflecting on the research and how the process went, so that you can improve next time.
Why do research skills matter at work?
Employers want staff who have great research skills because they can come up with new ideas for better ways to run the organisation. Maybe you’ll research new products or ways of working. Maybe you’ll be looking at how new projects your company could work on. Being able to carry out research into your Career Zone and the wider industry will show your dedication and ambition.
Of course if you’re interested in a career as a scientific researcher, then your job will be to research! But research skills come in handy across a wide range of roles.
Here are some examples of where and when research skills might be required:
- You might need to investigate information about the economy if you have a financial job.
- If you’re a lawyer you’ll need to sift through reams of case law to find evidence to support your argument.
- Journalists would need to research facts and figures for an article they’re writing.
- If you work in retail you might need to research and write a report about how your store could sell more products.
- A digital marketing manager might research ways to reach more customers via social media.
Effective research skills also rely on you having other transferable skills, such as:
- Managing your time.
- Communicating information in a clear and simple way.
- Presenting information.
- Taking initiative.
- Lateral thinking.
- Problem solving.
So by developing your research skills, you’ll also be boosting these important employability skills!
How can you improve your research skills?
Following the process outlined at the beginning of this article, you can develop your research skills by applying them in the following exercises:
- Write an essay for school. What sources will you use? How will you structure the information?
- Prepare for a job interview. How will you find out about the company you’ve applied for? What information about the job sector should you find out?
- Find volunteering opportunities. What roles are out there? How might they help your career?
Want to find out what other skills employers really want? Check out our article on key skills that will help you get a job, and see how many you already have!