21st Century Research Resources

For writers of mba thesis papers, authors of business plans, marketing analysts, and others doing technical, business, industry, and societal research.

 

For writers of mba thesis papers, authors of business plans, marketing analysts, and others doing technical, business, industry, and societal research, the 21st century provides a new and complex set of resources. The new resources are available for the most part from the Internet. But first, a look at what was available in the past...

What was available in the 20th century:

Traditionally, there were only a few sources of information that could be quickly accessed, such as:

Important deficiencies of these resources:

New tools available in the 21st century:

With the advent of the internet there are now many new research methods and resources, most of which overcome the deficiencies of the above set of tools and resources. Some examples of the new tools and resources are:

These new tools provide the following benefits:

How to access these resources:

1. Key words:

2. Start with the most common places for live, current, and interactive discussions:

3. Join many lists. Lurk for a while on each and see which ones have the kind of topics, questions, answers, and people you want to learn from and interact with. Some general guidelines:

4. Post questions about your topic/subject/problem on different lists. See the magic that happens when you start getting answers from a diverse range of people. Thank them privately and publicly. Answer other people's questions as best you can when you can contribute something meaningful. Dive into the "flow" of these discussion lists. Insights, contacts, clues, and more will result.

5. Like a detective, follow suggested site and resources references posted in the list or in response to your question. Research through the Internet is like following a trail in the forest. You will take many turns and have to backtrack sometimes, but a rich bounty of useful information awaits you if you work hard at it and keep following clues.

How to know what to trust:

Once you find some potentially important information, how do you know if you can trust it? So far, many students and other researchers have been discouraged from using internet based resources by academics or professionals. Academics express concern such as "what are the credentials of the person who wrote it?" The implication is that if the information is not produced by academics with PhD's and is not "peer reviewed" by their fellow PhD academics, it is immediately suspect, or simply no good at all. Inversely, they believe that information produced by them or their peers is immediately credible. An equally dangerous view!

There are two sides to this situation, depending on your view of people's motives:

1. Academics are log rolling each other to protect their jobs and the PhD franchise. Non-academic information is a threat to their livelihood and chances for promotion to tenured positions.

2. Academics have the best interests in mind for getting the real and best facts. For example, do you want to take advice on your serious medical condition from some unknown person who posts something on a discussion list?

As with most things in life, there are elements of truth in both sides. How then, do you ensure that information you get from the internet and the people you interact with there is "good" stuff?

The answers to this question are quite simple, really. The internet makes it easy to find information and interact with people who can help. It can also make it easy for you prove the credibility of the information you find:

Essential techniques for ensuring information you obtained through the internet is credible:

Use as many of these techniques as possible for the information you find through the internet:

  1. Check the background of the author, person or people producing the information you obtained or who you are discussing something with. How do you do this? ASK THEM! This is the age of the ability to interact. Send them an email, post a question on a bulletin board and/or phone them. Some questions to ask yourself and them, directly or indirectly:

    - Does the person have a biased viewpoint because they work for an organization who will benefit from the results of that viewpoint? (See the movie "The Corporation" (2004) for vivid examples of this).
    - How did this person create/obtain the information themselves? Through experience? From someone else? If yes, from whom?
    - How did this person prove the information was credible?
    - What other ways does this person's background aid credibility, such as qualifications, degrees, authority, etc.? (note that this question is last and least important)

  2. Find more than one source of the same information to corroborate the first source. Just like a newspaper reporter: Find multiple sources that confirm the "facts" you find. Make sure that these corroborating sources are not just copies of the original, but original derivations that lead to the same resulting conclusions. Or that others are willing to put their credibility on the line to support a fact.

  3. Confirm the information yourself when possible, using your own observations, tests, samples, statistics, etc. This is often the best support you can get for the validity and credibility of information. Hard work, but often generates lots of surprises as well as worthwhile insights.

Summary - hard work is hard work

Research processes in the 21st century - real research that will give you really useful information - is partly science, partly art and a lot of hard work. 21st century processes can be interactive, allowing wonderful mentoring, guidance, iteration, broadening of thinking, and deepening of thinking. Books, academic journals, and other printed sources of information are still very useful. But they now represent only a part of the possible sources and resources available to a researcher.

One thing is absolutely the same as what was available in the 20th century: Finding and proving the credibility of good information is hard work. The difference is that in the 21st century, you can do it faster, cheaper and with a broader scope. But it will still be hard work!

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The article © 2005 by Paul Kurucz. Please e-mail with your thoughts so that this document can be improved. This document or any information on it may be quoted or reprinted for non-commercial use. However, please reference this site and recognize Paul Kurucz as the author of anything you copy from here. Thank you!