My Favorite Research Tools

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Categories: search, Tools, tools


By Wanda Curlee

Do project and program managers need to be experts in the industry or sector they work in? While many would say yes, others argue that a competent and experienced project or program manager can lead initiatives in any area.

I would agree with the latter—with one caveat. Project and program managers who lack experience in a given field must be willing to do research and fill any knowledge gaps to make their efforts successful.

Research is the key to staying current. As a program or project manager, you must be able to ask subject matter experts smart, targeted questions. By arming yourself with the right information, you’ll be able to challenge assumptions and better navigate schedules, risks and other issues. And raising these questions will also drive creativity and innovation.

There are several online tools that I often use to conduct project–related research, including:

Google Scholar: This is a good tool for Boolean, or combined keyword, searches. It returns a list of reputable articles, books, abstracts and court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites. For most results, the title, author's name and abstract can be seen, but the full piece is behind a paywall.

Semantic Scholar: This engine—still in beta—has artificial intelligence built into the search, which is amazing. For those who have used EBSCOhost or ProQuest as a student or an academic, Semantic Scholar will look somewhat familiar. It’s based on Boolean searches as well, but, unlike Google Scholar, 99 percent of the returned articles are available as PDFs.

Semantic Scholar also lets you narrow your search. For example, you can search based on author(s), limit the search to a certain publication timeframe and only review articles in certain journals.

Depending on the search, some articles can also be sliced and diced by topic. For example, when I did a search on neuroscience and leadership, I was able to pick articles on certain areas of the brain. Even more fascinating, I could filter down to the type of brain cell discussed.

These are two of my go-to tools. Where do you turn when conducting project research and preparing to lead an effort in a new field?  

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: February 08, 2017 10:23 AM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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Very Informative. Thank you.

You are welcome

Agreed with the premise of this post. I had a lot of self-doubt when moving into a technical PM position while not having much of a technical background. Being willing to do research about the new field really helped.

Hello Anzor - Thanks for the comment. I agree that research can help calm self-doubt.

Thanks Wanda, I was not aware of these additional search options.

Andrew - You are most welcome.

Good Analogy.

Thank you

Very informative, thanks a lot.

Nian - You are welcome!

Having no idea about the project is very challenging but I find that by researching how it's done today by eg. YouTube and writing your own notes helps me. I can then ask the SME the how and whys and relate the addition back to the business case.

Raymond - Thanks for your comment. I agree with everything you said. Asking the SME and the team the how and why also builds trust between the team and the project manager.

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