Learning How To Research

The most valuable tool, I think, that I could leave my children is learning through research.  It is not always that easy but learning and research do go hand in hand.  Many people figure that when they are done school that is it.  Most of the time that should be just the beginning as not much really useful information was gathered there. 

For me, one of the best ways to research a subject is through periodicals – magazines. 

Nowadays, this translates into online newsletters but it is the same idea.  One of the main reasons a magazine or periodical is good for research on a subject or helping to learn to research is that they are generally geared to neophytes or people newer to the subject.  For example, quite a number of years ago I started to learn photography.  I wanted to learn everything that I could and started accumulating books but the most useful thing that I aquired was a subscription to a photo magazine.  Most of the magazines that I found on the shelf were covering basics. I realized after a while that they were on a 18 month to 2 year cycle.  They would cover a lot of basics of photography – the articles were simple, informative and would give one lots of material to practice with.  Once they cycled through these basics they would start over again.  I have subscibed to other magazines and although not as long with some, they appeared to be similar – a one to two year cycle of the basics.

Learning how to research takes a bit of practice but this was a great way to start. Take what you learn from these periodicals or newsletters and go practice to see if it works for you.  As I learned more I bought books in the areas that I wanted more detail. I did not always read them cover to cover but looked for specifics of what I wanted to learn and apply. 

For me the ability to judge what was important came with a lot of practise – taking what I learned and applying it.  The more I did this the better my judgement got as to what was important. 

The other key was making sure that I understood the terminology.  This was vital.  Almost any ‘niche’ or subject has its own nomenclature and if you don’t know the terms there is no way to understand the material around it.  I’ve had people tell me that ‘you’ll get it from the context’ – believe me please, this is chancy at best.  It is so easy these days to get the proper definitions – there are so many dictionaries online – it takes seconds.  I’m old school and like my dictionaries but often if you are researching in a specialized subject there are terms and phrases that will not be in a conventional dictionary.  I made sure that I had specialized photo dictionaries about as well. 

These days the resources online are extensive.  But make sure that you evaluate the material. 

I would love to see researched based learning part of school systems but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. Best to keep your kids at home and teach them how to read then if you are teaching them how to research they will be able to absorb and evaluate anything. 

Learn to research properly and you can tackle anything.

Posted by Martin Jones

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