Every day we are bombarded with problems to solve and decisions to make, and the quality of our solutions and decisions are only as good as the information they are based on. With so much information at our fingertips, how can we systematically analyze the information for better results. As a professional with over 15 years experience in research, I constantly have to analyze the data gathered, so the information requested by my client is streamlined and not overwhelming. Here is a simple process that could help you:
- Skim and Scan
- Determine accuracy, relevance and reliability of information
- Identify propaganda, bias
- Recognize omissions and faulty logic
- Recognize interrelationships
Step 1. Review the questions
Review the questions generated before the information was gathered. Why was this particular information necessary? What questions was it supposed to answer? What kinds of decisions will be made based on this information? Renew your understanding of the central issues and key questions.
Unanticipated results should not be ignored. Putting information together will often raise important, unforeseen and relevant questions. Note these for future reference and point them out when presenting the results.
Step 2. Organize the information
- Gather together all relevant information that has been collected
- Sort information into parts which belong together
- Some may have already been analyzed. Some may be partly analyzed, and some may need analysis
Step 3. Decide how to analyze information
Analysis could simply be adding up numbers and averaging them, or comparing information to examine the relationship of one thing to another or two things together. Pay attention to the source of the information.
Step 4. Analyze the information
- Look out for biased information and faulty logic
- Take note of similarities
- Contrast information by setting two things in opposition to show the differences
- Relate pieces of information to establish relationships between and among them
- Take note of emerging themes
- Identify gaps in the information
- Do you have the information you need to solve the problem or make the decision?
Step 5. Integrate the information
Put the analyzed parts together in a way that tells the complete story. It is impossible to gather all the information you will ever need, so there are times when you have to make intelligent assumptions.
Note: Pay attention to where you collect your information. Good sources are government websites, university sources, commercial online databases, which you can readily access from most public library portals, community watch dog agencies and reputable consumer groups are a few that readily come to mind.
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