There are a number of ways to approach online research. It is best to think of strategic corporate research as a two-stage process. The first stage is gathering the information, and the second stage is analyzing the information.
- Harvest Information
It is tempting to simply look at information online without creating a record of what’s out there. While some preliminary reconnaissance is in order, we cannot analyze it all on the spot. So it is important to keep track of information you find as early as possible. This will help you to develop a more thoughtful analysis as you learn more about your firm.
- Download, Cut, and Paste
You may want to download some key original documents in their entirety. However, you may also want to cut and paste sections from original documents into a new document. Our worksheet in the resources section open up a Google Doc with all the 24 questions listed. When pasting information from many sources into a single document, be sure to clearly demarcate between them. Also include the URL where the information came from. This will enable you to return to the source if you need additional information, and allows you to document your sources in a written report.
- To Print or Not to Print?
When conducting corporate research, it is tempting to print everything you find. For a comprehensive research project, this is simply not the best way to proceed. Not only is it expensive and environmentally problematic, but it will also be difficult to manage this amount of paper. Print only those key documents that contain a variety of information or those that may require additional in-depth study.
- Stay on Track
You will encounter an immense amount of information; be careful not to get sidetracked. The 24 questions are you best guide, and serve as a check list to help keep you focused. At the same time, if you can’t seem to find information in a specific area, it may be best to jump to the next question. You may find the information elsewhere, or develop a more specific search strategy as you learn more about your firm.
- Stop, Evaluate, and Adjust
Instead of continually plowing forward, it is important to stop periodically and evaluate your progress. Where are you in terms of your timeline? Are you harvesting too much (or not enough) information? Adjust your strategy and come up with a plan to proceed. This is particularly important if you are working as a team. Meet with your team; talk, evaluate your progress, and decide how to move forward.