Research Skills: Definition, Examples and Importance
Updated 26 March 2023
Research skills play a vital role in helping companies develop and improve products and services, keep their competitiveness, identify and meet customer needs. Having excellent research abilities can improve your problem-solving skills, boost your creativity and enhance your ability to contribute to innovative activities in your organisation. Knowing the skills vital for research and how to develop them can enhance your employability, professional growth and ability to create positive change. In this article, we discuss research skills, highlight examples and outline their importance.
What are research skills?
Research skills refer to the ability to find, organise, analyse and present relevant information about a specific subject. Being able to research requires having several soft and hard skills, including the ability to conduct investigations, make observations, draw inferences, perform analysis and derive solutions to a particular issue.
Employers value research skills because they can enhance employees' problem-solving skills and plays a vital role in innovation and product or service development. If you're adept at research and you can use it to provide actionable insights and enhance the performance of colleagues, this skill can help advance your career goals and improve your learning ability.
What are the skills of a good researcher?
The following are some skills of an effective researcher:
The ability to investigate and search for information about a subject is a vital skill for researchers. Knowing how to search for information online and in primary and secondary data sources can help you discover the solutions to problems. For example, sifting through technical documentation archives in the IT department can show you how to resolve a recurring internet connection issue. A simple online search can also help you resolve the issue.
Good researchers are excellent problem solvers. They can analyse problems accurately and look for the most suitable solutions. Being an effective problem solver requires a combination of other skills, including creativity, observation and analysis.
Critical thinking skills are vital for effective research. They allow an individual to carry out an in-depth analysis of an issue, find related data and analyse and interpret it to make actionable conclusions. To be an effective critical thinker requires being adept at observation, evaluation, analysis and having an open mind.
Research requires adequate planning for optimal results. A good researcher typically creates a plan outlining the research problem, the methods of solving the problem, the timeframe, the budget and the resources required to achieve results. This involves setting goals, organising tasks, allocating time, delegating tasks, measuring progress and creating reports.
Attention to detail
Being detail-oriented is an important skill for researchers. Detail orientation can make it easier for an individual to make insightful observations and follow strict guidelines to achieve specific results. In roles that require research, the ability to follow rules and carry out procedures correctly can help achieve breakthroughs in product development and customer needs identification.
Excellent communication skills are vital for conducting research. Most times, research involves collaborating with a team of researchers and this requires effective communication. You may give instructions, describe procedures, perform demonstrations and record experiments. Research may also involve data analysis and summarisation, presentation, report writing and result publication, which are activities that require good written and verbal communication skills.
Research involves going through a vast amount of information about a topic. Being able to take notes allows you to record the most relevant details and helps you stay on track regarding the problem you're trying to solve. Note-taking also helps you summarise your findings, keeps your work neat and makes it easier to share your results with other people.
If your work involves doing research, it can take a long time to get results. Many of the products people use in their everyday lives are the results of years of research. So, besides knowing how to perform research, it's also vital to be able to persevere and continue making progress until you achieve the desired outcome.
Effective research involves meticulous time management. Because many research projects require years of work, it's important to have a clear plan for scheduling tasks and allocating time for their completion. Doing this can help an organisation achieve the goals of its research on schedule and reduce waste and delays.
Why is it important to develop the ability to research?
These are the reasons why learning skills about research is important:
Problem identification: Developing skills related to research can help you become better at identifying problems that may reduce your colleagues' or company's performance and results. Because researching involves solving problems, being an effective researcher can improve your ability to identify issues properly.
Problem resolution: Having excellent research skills can also improve your ability to solve problems. Since research abilities make it easier to identify and understand issues, it can also make finding solutions easier because you can better analyse the problem, find and analyse relevant information and apply it to your specific situation.
Products or services development: Improving research abilities can enhance a team or company's capacity for developing new products or services. An organisation with strong research credentials can leverage its knowledge to create new and improved offers to satisfy the market's needs.
Customer needs identification: Employees and organisations can also use their skills in research to gain powerful insights about their market. If you know customers' demands, it becomes easier to meet their expectations by tweaking products and services to include the features and benefits they want.
Competitive advantage: Having a strong and dynamic research culture can also help you stay up-to-date with industry and market trends. Data from research can provide a better understanding of competitors, their strengths and weaknesses and how to adapt to maintain a competitive advantage.
How to improve your research abilities
Follow these tips to develop your research skills:
1. Identify your research objective
To be an effective researcher, it's important to always identify your objectives before you do research. Having a research objective provides clarity and gives your activities a purpose. For example, competitor research can provide insights into the strengths, weaknesses, market capitalisation and key selling points of a rival.
If you're only trying to gauge the competitor's market share, the other data points might increase the timeframe and budget of your research and even skew the results of your finding. So, consider defining your purpose from the start so you can stay focused on the core variables that matter to your goal.
2. Create a research outline
After identifying your objective, consider creating an outline to guide the research project. A research outline can include questions about data sources, methods of analysing the data, timeframe, budget and the tentative conclusion you aim to derive after analysis. Having a plan can help break your research work into smaller parts you can complete and track more easily.
3. Know how to identify reliable sources
Effective researchers know how to identify quality sources for reliable data and information. The quality of your sources is vital because inaccurate data can lead to unreliable findings, which can affect the quality of decisions. A good practice is to search for data from respected industry publications and to cross-check authors' claims from several sources to ensure their assumptions and methods are valid.
4. Learn advanced search methods
You can work faster and get more insightful reports from search engines if you know how to use them more effectively. Many search engines have shortcuts and tricks you can use to increase the likelihood of getting the exact information related to your query. There are also dedicated search engines that cater to a specific niche, such as biomedical science publications or engineering research repositories. Knowing about these tools and how to use them efficiently can reduce your research time and help you get accurate and credible information quickly.
5. Learn how to organise data
During the research, you may find troves of related data that may not be relevant to your objective. To avoid getting overwhelmed, you may use organisation techniques. One way to do this is to create a document where you can copy and paste relevant links or content. You can also bookmark pages on your internet browser, download or screenshot data and print documents. Doing this can ensure you don't lose information vital to your research.
6. Acknowledge sources
Regardless of how old or recent your sources are, remember to always acknowledge the original authors of the information you used for your research. Doing this shows that you value their contribution to your progress. Properly acknowledging sources can also help you avoid claims of plagiarism and intellectual theft, especially if you're going to publish your research findings in an industry journal.
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