December 08, 2000, 9:39 AM — Much of a consultant's job involves researching information. After all, your clients
hire you because you know things that they don't. But what if you don't have all the
answers they're looking for? Very often you will only have a piece of the puzzle at
your fingertips. The rest you will have to research. In the last several years, the
resources available for research have expanded astronomically, and many of them are on
the Internet. But as we'll see below, the Internet will only take you so far. You will
still need to read textbooks and speak with real human beings. The key is to use a
variety of methods.
Before you even start researching, you should be much better informed than the
average person in your industry. I start every day seriously reading trade periodicals
and online news. I save copies of everything relevant to what I'm working on or expect
to be working on. But for most projects this just gives me a running start. Next, I
usually head to the Internet, often to a general-purpose search engine. Currently, I
turn first to Google (see the Resources section below for
links to this and other sites mentioned in this article), but I regularly experiment
with other engines. Learn to use the advanced search features to narrow down your
searches. Be clever with the keywords you search with and use judicious combinations of
Next, find out what is available on the Internet for your particular industry. Most
technical publications have Websites with search engines for their news archives. This
will narrow down your search quickly. For example, if you are in technology, check out
CNet. Researching the computer industry in Asia? Find the Website for an Asian computer
publication. See if there are fee-based services that specialize in your industry. I'm
a wireless networking specialist, and find my subscription to WirelessNetNow worth
every penny of the $450 annual fee. The archives are excellent, and every day I get an
email containing comprehensive news about my industry.
Look also at publications with thorough business coverage, such as the New York
Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Business Week. These have
good Websites with powerful searches for their archives. There are also aggregators of
market information, such as USAData.com and InfoTech Trends, which sell their reports.
Pay services such as NewsEdge provide thorough searches of news publications, press
releases, and other sources. You get the idea, so look around. For technical
information, don't neglect actual standards and specifications, many of which nowadays
you can obtain from Websites, sometimes for free, sometimes not.