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Research Skills and Using Data

Overview

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Conducting research and using data are critical to partnership development.

As part of the partnership development process, you will conduct research and use data to make strategic decisions about whom to partner with. You will also use this information as means of recruiting partners and networking with key stakeholders. The three key phases of the partnership development process that are most relevant are:

  1. Assessment of State Needs;
  2. Identification of Partners; and
  3. Partnership Recruitment

To learn more about the essential skills required to accomplish these phases, click the Resources link.

Enhance research skills and use data to effectively identify and recruit partners.

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of online research, in-person information gathering, and other relevant research methods, including when to apply the methods and best practices for implementing;
  • Identify acceptable and unacceptable sources of materials and information;
  • Apply techniques to find accurate and up-to-date data;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of acceptable and unacceptable uses of materials and information; and
  • Communicate data and information effectively, including visually appealing presentations and audience-focused presentations.End of text

Research Methods

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You will conduct interviews as a primary research method for the assessment of state needs.

Interviews generally offer the chance to explore questions deeply and provide an opportunity to ask complex questions. They also allow the interviewer to ask the respondents to elaborate on their answers, eliciting in-depth information. Interview reliability can be problematic if interviewers are not well trained. The interviewers may ask questions in different ways or otherwise bias the responses. This is why it is especially important to build on and enhance interview skills.

Here are some examples of ways to use interviews:

  • Talk to different stakeholders to identify the needs of Service members and Families in the focus areas
  • Network with existing contacts for introductions and leads outside the military community
  • Interview individuals within an organization to explore their perceptions of ability to deliver services

In addition, here are some general best practices for conducting interviews:

  • Avoid confusing or wordy questions
  • Use unbiased language – For example, ask “What do you believe are the greatest areas of need for Service Members and Families?” instead of “Behavioral health is the greatest areas of need, don’t you agree?”
  • Adapt in the moment to expand further or clarify information
  • Ask the same general set of questions to all interviewees to increase reliability
  • Use open body language, make direct eye contact, and speak clearly and concisely

You will conduct online research as a secondary research method for the assessment of state needs.

There is a wealth of information on the internet – so much that at times it may seem daunting to sift through the many resources available. You can maximize the potential of search engines by learning how they work, and how to use them quickly and effectively. The challenge is to ask your question the right way, so that you don't end up overwhelmed with too many search results, underwhelmed with too few, or simply unable to locate the material that you need.

Here are examples of ways to use online research:

Locate research studies and articles that discuss needs of Service members and Families in the focus areas

  • Find data and statistics related to the needs of Service members and Families
  • Identify potential partners
  • Collect information about potential partners

Here are tips to maximize effectiveness and efficiency of online research:

  • Use key words (preferably nouns) and consider multiple alternatives for the same keyword (e.g., behavioral health, psychological health, mental health, etc)
  • Use phrases in quotations – by doing so you will locate articles and such that include the exact phrase you entered (e.g. “Number of Service members suffering from PTSD”)
  • Use Boolean searches to narrow results – this means separating keywords with “AND” (search documents that contain both keywords), “OR” (search documents that contain either keyword), and “OR NOT” (search documents that contain one keyword and not the other)
  • Search for keywords within the webpage (Google search allows this)
  • Do not use too much data – only select information that is most relevant

Click the Resources link for a list of online resources that are helpful for applying research methods and conducting online searches.End of text

Source Materials

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Evaluate sources to ensure information is credible, accurate, and up-to-date.

When conducting online research, you will want to evaluate sources to ensure the information is credible, accurate, and up-to-date. This is particularly important when referencing statistics and data. A good starting point is to look for professional websites that end with “.org”, “.edu”, or “.gov” as these tend to be more credible than “.com” websites of which any individual, regardless of credentials, can develop and add content to.

Here are some helpful guidelines for evaluating online sources:

  1. Look at the authors credentials – qualifications, authority in the field, connections to the subject, affiliated institutions or organizations, contact information, etc.
  2. Determine if the information is peer reviewed or cites peer reviewed sources (scholarly or professional)
  3. Pay attention to potential bias - promoting a product, subjective political/social criticism, etc.
  4. Look at the dates of publication to ensure the information is current
  5. Make sure there is a complete list of works cited that reference credible, authoritative sources

Click the Resources link for a list of online resources that are helpful for evaluating source materials.

Use information properly through fair use, citing, and paraphrasing.

Once you have identified and evaluated sources, you want to make sure that you use the information properly. This means, ensuring fair use of information to avoid copyright infringement, as well as citing sources and paraphrasing content to avoid plagiarism. Fair use permits the limited use of copyrighted material without permission for the purpose of commentary, criticism, research, and teaching. Essentially, if you do not intend to profit from the use of the information and draw on it primarily as a means for research, fair use is permitted. In addition, when using statistics or other forms of data, you always want to cite the source to increase your credibility. Last, when documenting information from secondary sources, you will want to paraphrase the content to avoid plagiarism (the representation of another’s work as your own). This means re-phrasing the content in your own words.End of text

Leveraging Data

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Leverage data in identification of partners and partner recruitment.

Once you have done your research and collected data, you will want to leverage the information to engage partners—particularly in the identification and recruitment phases of the partnership development process. Communicating and using data may take several forms. Primarily, you want to use the data to make strategic decisions, such as identifying which partners to target that meet the needs you have identified in your state, as well as in formal presentations or materials. In addition, you should be familiar enough with the research and data to use it in conversation. For example, if you approach a state mental health professional association and secure a meeting through a network contact, you can use data you found as part of a simple, but powerful opening that says: "In [this state], suicide rates among Service members has risen by 16% over the last 12 months. I know that your organization’s mission is to equip professionals to meet the needs of [this state's] residences. I’m hoping you will consider a partnership with Army OneSource and other community organizations to help address this growing problem."

Communicate information and data with compelling visuals.

Creating compelling visuals will significantly enhance the impact of your message. There are many different types of visuals used to convey information, as well as various chart types to display data.

The following outlines types of visuals and corresponding information types:

  • Portrait – Who
  • Calendar, Clock or Timeline – When
  • Map – Where
  • Diagram – How
  • Chart (bar, pie, line, scatter) – How much

In addition to simply knowing what type of visual to use, you also want to ensure a clean and simple visual aesthetic:

  • Use exact numbers when possible versus percentages
  • Only include the most relevant data to avoid information overload
  • Apply a consistent color palette and use fill effects
  • Avoid sharp borders
  • Use a consistent font
  • Use keywords versus long sentences
  • Use color to highlight concepts or key data points

Develop audience-focused presentations.

In developing a presentation, one must carefully prepare and adapt the presentation to the particular context. Experts in public speaking suggest that the number one reason a presentation fails to achieve its goal is that the speaker does not know his or her listeners well enough. When preparing presentations, customize your delivery based on the particular audience. This does not mean re-writing the entire presentation; rather, incorporate information, such as data and statistics that are related to the interests of your audience. For example, if you are presenting to a potential partner, only use data points that are most relevant to the audience and incorporate information specific to their organization to show that you have done your research and understand how their mission and services align with AOS.

Click the Resources link for a list of online resources that are helpful for tailoring presentations and creating compelling visuals.End of text

Summary

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Enhance research skills and use data to effectively identify and recruit partners.

Now that you have completed this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of online research, in-person information gathering, and other relevant research methods, including when to apply the methods and best practices for implementing;
  • Identify acceptable and unacceptable sources of materials and information;
  • Apply techniques to get accurate and up-to-date data;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of acceptable and unacceptable uses of materials and information; and
  • Communicate data and information effectively, including visually appealing presentations and audience-focused presentations.End of text

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