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What are research skills?

Last updated

26 April 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

Research skills are practically any skill used to investigate or analyze information relevant to a topic of interest. 

Broadly, it includes a range of talents required to:

  • Find useful information

  • Perform critical analysis

  • Form hypotheses

  • Solve problems

It also includes processes such as time management, communication, and reporting skills to achieve those ends.

Research requires a blend of conceptual and detail-oriented modes of thinking. It tests one's ability to transition between subjective motivations and objective assessments to ensure only correct data fits into a meaningfully useful framework.

As countless fields increasingly rely on data management and analysis, polishing your research skills is an important, near-universal way to improve your potential of getting hired and advancing in your career.

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What are basic research skills?

Almost any research involves some proportion of the following fundamental skills:

  • Organization

  • Decision-making

  • Investigation and analysis

  • Creative thinking

  • Evaluation

The exact balance of these skills depends on the types of research being conducted, with certain skills being more or less predominant at different stages.

What are primary research skills?

The following are some of the most universally important research skills that will help you in a wide range of positions:

  • Time management — From planning and organization to task prioritization and deadline management, time-management skills are highly in-demand workplace skills.

  • Problem-solving — Identifying issues, their causes, and key solutions are another essential suite of research skills.

  • Critical thinking — The ability to make connections between data points with clear reasoning is essential to navigate data and extract what's useful towards the original objective.

  • Communication — In any collaborative environment, team-building and active listening will help researchers convey findings more effectively through data summarizations and report writing.

What are the most important skills in research?

Detail-oriented procedures are essential to research, which allow researchers and their audience to probe deeper into a subject and make connections they otherwise may have missed with generic overviews.

Maintaining priorities is also essential so that details fit within an overarching strategy. Lastly, decision-making is crucial because that's the only way research is translated into meaningful action.

Why are research skills important?

Good research skills are crucial to learning more about a subject, then using that knowledge to improve an organization's capabilities. Synthesizing that research and conveying it clearly is also important, as employees seek to share useful insights and inspire effective actions.

Effective research skills are essential for those seeking to:

  • Analyze their target market

  • Investigate industry trends

  • Identify customer needs

  • Detect obstacles

  • Find solutions to those obstacles

  • Develop new products or services

  • Develop new, adaptive ways to meet demands

  • Discover more efficient ways of acquiring or using resources

Why do we need research skills?

Businesses and individuals alike need research skills to clarify their role in the marketplace, which of course, requires clarity on the market in which they function in. High-quality research helps people stay better prepared for challenges by identifying key factors involved in their day-to-day operations, along with those that might play a significant role in future goals.

Benefits of having research skills

Research skills increase the effectiveness of any role that's dependent on information. Both individually and organization-wide, good research simplifies what can otherwise be unwieldy amounts of data. It can help maintain order by organizing information and improving efficiency, both of which set the stage for improved revenue growth.

Those with highly effective research skills can help reveal both:

  1. Opportunities for improvement

  2. Brand-new or previously unseen opportunities

Research skills can then help identify how to best take advantage of available opportunities. With today's increasingly data-driven economy, it will also increase your potential of getting hired and help position organizations as thought leaders in their marketplace.

Research skills examples

Being necessarily broad, research skills encompass many sub-categories of skillsets required to extrapolate meaning and direction from dense informational resources. Identifying, interpreting, and applying research are several such subcategories—but to be specific, workplaces of almost any type have some need of:

  • Searching for information

  • Attention to detail

  • Taking notes

  • Problem-solving

  • Communicating results

  • Time management

How to improve your research skills

Whether your research goals are to learn more about a subject or enhance workflows, you can improve research skills with this failsafe, four-step strategy:

  1. Make an outline, and set your intention(s)

  2. Know your sources

  3. Learn to use advanced search techniques

  4. Practice, practice, practice (and don't be afraid to adjust your approach)

These steps could manifest themselves in many ways, but what's most important is that it results in measurable progress toward the original goals that compelled you to research a subject.

Using research skills at work

Different research skills will be emphasized over others, depending on the nature of your trade. To use research most effectively, concentrate on improving research skills most relevant to your position—or, if working solo, the skills most likely have the strongest impact on your goals.

You might divide the necessary research skills into categories for short, medium, and long-term goals or according to each activity your position requires. That way, when a challenge arises in your workflow, it's clearer which specific research skill requires dedicated attention.


How can I learn research skills?

Learning research skills can be done with a simple three-point framework:

  1. Clarify the objective — Before delving into potentially overwhelming amounts of data, take a moment to define the purpose of your research. If at any point you lose sight of the original objective, take another moment to ask how you could adjust your approach to better fit the original objective.

  2. Scrutinize sources — Cross-reference data with other sources, paying close attention to each author's credentials and motivations.

  3. Organize research — Establish and continually refine a data-organization system that works for you. This could be an index of resources or compiling data under different categories designed for easy access.

Which careers require research skills?

Especially in today's world, most careers require some, if not extensive, research. Developers, marketers, and others dealing in primarily digital properties especially require extensive research skills—but it's just as important in building and manufacturing industries, where research is crucial to construct products correctly and safely.

Engineering, legal, medical, and literally any other specialized field will require excellent research skills. Truly, almost any career path will involve some level of research skills; and even those requiring only minimal research skills will at least require research to find and compare open positions in the first place.

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