Did you know the World Wide Web is estimated to contain over two billion pages of freely accessible information? This definitely is a lot of information available but searching for a needle from such an enormous haystack seems impossible. Fortunately, search engine technology helps us to gather this information by just inputting a word or a string. Popular search engines such as Google, Alta Vista, or Yahoo etc deliver results and make our jobs easier. Or does it? The issue we face is that these Search engines provide thousands of sources/pages and we most commonly don't go beyond the first page.
However, a counter argument may be justifiable as well. First, Web research is inexpensive and fast. Second, numerous data sources actually provides the researcher a broader perspective to the Research objective and they are geared to challenge the credibility of the data. Third and the most important benefit is that Web research provides background information and meaningful insights that help decision makers confirm their decisions on conducting further studies.
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Some sources can be highly useful:
Company Websites | Government Sources | Trade Associations | Academic Institutions | News Stands/Press | Specialized websites - Expert Opinions | Online libraries/directories/encyclopedias | Databases | Blogs by topic/User Groups
Web Research or Desk Research results can be used to provide Business Intelligence on a broad variety of topics:
Industry Analysis | Country/Region Analysis | Product Analysis | Market Opportunity Analysis | Market profiles and sizing | Competitive Positioning | Competitive Analysis | Key Account Profiling | Company Analysis | Market feasibility and market entry strategy | Emerging market trends | Database Management
All said and done, "finding" the right information is still a challenge. Expert researchers use various techniques to get the information they are looking for.
- The right search strategy - words, sentences, arrangements, rearrangements, Boolean logic etc
- The right search engine or More than one search engine - Google may provide more relevant sources than Yahoo or vice versa
- Play with a different logic
- The use of paid databases has a huge success ratio compared to freely available online sources. The uses of databases such as Factiva, Hoovers, One source etc are highly recommended by expert desk researchers. Although subscriptions may add another cost element it is considered to be highly reliable and time saving compared to free sources.
A Disciplines Approach to Web or Desk Research:
Plan - Web or Desk research is a planned approach. There is an objective and a end result which needs to be linked at each step to achieve the desired results
Timetable - With millions of available sources to choose from a researcher may get bombarded with a lot of information that may not be required. The plan needs to be finalized with the required timetable with milestones.
Record and Validate - Every bit of information collected needs to be recorded, evaluated and validated. This is the most important step ensuring credibility of the data collected and ensures the research is on track.
Integrate - All the information needs to be arranged and integrated to logically link topics together to ensure the research objective is met as per the plan document.
Present - The data needs to be presented in a format that is visually appealing to the end reader. Fonts, Content placement, Reading styles, Colors etc need special attention and confirmation before submission.
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