Love it or loathe it, good research skills are something no accounting or tax professional can do without.
From researching potential clients to gathering information on the latest commercial trends within a client’s industry, discovering reliable information resources and analysing your firm’s findings, research is a vital part of everyday operations for busy accounting professionals.
Tracking down information
With so much information available on the internet, it can be a real challenge to find exactly what you’re looking for. One simple trick is to modify the key phrase you use to search, whether it be in a search engine, on a particular website or even a library database. Be specific in what you’re searching for (dates and names will help refine your search results) and if one search fails, try rewording the phrase.
Don’t overlook the value of social media in conducting research. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are used by many professionals to discuss the latest news, share research and connect with like-minded professionals. You can tap into this to review people and organisations, discover how well they are viewed in the marketplace and unearth documents or websites that are otherwise difficult to find.
It’s not enough to simply find the information you’re after in the digital age. Among the vast reserves of data, documents and discussions to be found online, you need to validate that your sources are reliable and respected within the industry. Government sites, trade organisations and academic research are the obvious choices, but reputable media outlets, renowned industry commentators and respected companies and charities are all options for sourcing information that is original and accurate.
Referencing the references
Most reliable sources of information, such as government sites, media articles and academic research, will reference where they obtained specific ideas, quotes and data. Not only does this help to validate them as a source, it also gives you direct insight into where their own research led them. So when you find a report or article of value, check out their reference list.
Obtaining case studies
The theory can differ from reality, so try to substantiate the research you find with real-life case studies. Media articles and social media are a good start, but try discussing your research with clients to see how they may be affected. Having a human perspective will help you to contextualise issues and understand their impact.
Thankfully, there are online research tools available that are specifically tailored to the needs of accounting professionals. Thomson Reuters Checkpoint provides a much-needed alternative to traditional research options, transforming online research methods into a workflow information solution.
Tools like Checkpoint allow tax and accounting professionals to not only find information and research easily but also manage their workflow to ensure their research is used in the right areas and in the most productive way possible.