A critical component to conducting research – online or in a library – is knowing how and where to start gathering information and data. Regardless of whether you are working for a financial institution, a law enforcement agency or a private client, you will undoubtedly need to review an array of materials from a variety of sources. To do this effectively, it’s a good idea to take a minute and sketch out a plan and create an inventory or check list before diving in. In my graduate research methods course we were taught to use mapping techniques when reviewing literature on our topics of interest. A map or graphic blueprint can help the researcher or analyst to determine what is missing from the data and aid in filling the information and intelligence gaps (think i2 Analysts Notebook).
It’s also a good idea to keep a couple of subject matter experts on speed dial (phone, email or as an internet bookmark). Regardless of the topics you’re investigating or analyzing it’s a really good idea to know who the experts are and how to contact them because you don’t want to do your work in a vacuum. Context is extremely important.
To stay abreast of current trends and events, I suggest reading the CTC Sentinel, produced by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. Published monthly, the Sentinel contains a series of well thought-out articles on topics related to terrorism and threat groups written by individuals with a wealth of experience.