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? How can we judge the accuracy of certain pieces of information that’s floating everywhere that everyone is using? The ability to analyze information prevents professionals from becoming overwhelmed by the volume.
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 accurate, 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 because nearly all research is a direct result of a question that must be answered. 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
Step 4. Analyze the information
- Pay attention to the source of the information
- Is the source well respected and reputable?
- Is the information propaganda?
- 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 to fill in the gaps. There are many times when your life experiences come into play and help you make the correct assumptions.
This is an easy process that will help you to analyze information, but the quality of your analysis will always be impacted by the quality of the information that you are analyzing. Therefore it is extremely important that you pay attention to where you collect your information. Some good and credible information sources are government websites, university sources, commercial online databases (Lexis/Nexis, Expanded Academic Index, ABI Inform, EBSCOhost and so on), which you can readily access from most public library portals, community watch dog agencies and reputable consumer groups.
Avil Beckford, Chief Invisible Mentor, writer and researcher with over 15 years of experience, is the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to the Invisible Mentor Blog for great interviews of successful people, book reviews, how-tos, articles and tips to mentor yourself and ignite your hidden genius. Explore the Resources page for free white papers, presentations and an e-book.