To create meaningful business reports and deliverables, you need a sound approach to researching trends, market shifts and economic data, so that the information you gather is value-added. The characteristics of good research include using primary sources, quantitative data, qualitative data and the input of professionals from different departments or areas of expertise. These important characteristics add meaning to reports that senior leaders can use to make decisions.
Primary sources are perhaps the best place to get information that is relevant, timely and accurate. For instance, if you’re looking to gather financial information regarding a competitor, visiting the investor relations section of their website and downloading their financial statements is the ideal way to get that information. Similarly, if you’re looking for U.S. demographic information, visiting the U.S. Census website and downloading statistics is also a good idea. Although secondary sources can provide valuable information, it’s better to use primary sources instead.
Business research should be based, at least in part, on quantitative data. This means using numbers, such as industry statistics, economic data and other important figures, to add weight to the research you’re conducting. While quantitative data by itself is insufficient, figures can form the foundation for a sound analysis and subjective assessments. Quantitative data is not always available, but when it is, you should utilize it. Including tables, graphs and other displays of quantitative data in reports can make it easier for your leaders to understand your point of view.
Qualitative data is normally expressed in words instead of numbers and can include industry trends, risks and different types of business strategies. For example, high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk internal failures are an example of qualitative data. Each risk category helps decision-makers develop strategies to mitigate the threats their organization faces. Qualitative data can aid decision-makers by breaking larger problems in smaller ones, which are easier to understand.
When conducting business research, it’s normally not enough to use one source or rely on the insights of a particular technical expert. Otherwise, you’re likely to get a narrow view of whatever subject matter you’re researching. Groupthink, which is a phenomenon common to groups of like-minded individuals, can greatly throw off research reports. Groupthink results from groups of individuals with similar backgrounds and opinions making skewed decisions, because they don’t view decisions from different perspectives. So, incorporating multiple perspectives into reports is a characteristic of good business research.
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