When I use the word research, what’s your immediate reaction? Did you cringe, maybe tense up a little bit? Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone. When the word research gets used, it means for me it’s time to go to work, and I get excited. I crack my knuckles and prepare to conquer the data with spreadsheets, graphs, and color coding.
As a research manager for Wake County Economic Development, I see a variety of statistics, numbers, and percentages about population, education, cost of living, etc. all day. I try to make the most sense of them I can, find a trend, and explain them in a relatively clear way, which isn’t always easy to do when you’re talking numbers.
With technology these days, we are lucky to have many of the resources we use daily now available online such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey. We also use other entities that have resources available to them such as Wake County and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. These relationships we’ve developed have helped create a local group of researchers who are able to use each other as a sounding board for a variety of information. We can ask each other difficult questions, share frustration when information can’t be found, or boast about our newly designed color coded pie chart.
We’ve also shared some of the inside tools of the trade—like where you can find the most reliable information. Below are the top five tips from my research family to yours:
- Don’t trust any website. Make sure whatever website you use is a legitimate website such as the U.S. Census Bureau. Certain websites allow users to edit and update the information, but this doesn’t always provide the most recent or correct information.
- Sourcing. Sourcing. Sourcing. Always source where you find your information, that way when someone asks, you have the information readily available. Or when you go back to update, you know exactly where you found it the first time.
- Always go to the original source. If a newspaper or journal talks about, mentions, or sources a statistics or fact, go to the original source and find the information yourself. This way you can double check the newspaper's work, but often times you'll also find information that the article left out that may be of more importance to you.
- Did I mention sourcing?
- Call. If you are looking for a specific piece of information and you can’t find it or don’t know where to look, don’t hesitate to call.