How to Win Best Delegate, Part 5: Research Your Topic

by Ryan on November 28, 2007

Here’s a quick and dirty 4-step guide to researching your topic:

1. Develop an overall understanding of the topic.

Start with the topic paper, but Wikipedia is probably your best source of information. It is generally comprehensive, fact-checked, and updated.

Break up the topic into smaller issues to make it easier to understand.

Also know the players: who’s most affected by the topic and who has the most impact on the topic.

Here’s a test: if you had to sum up your topic in one sentence, what would you say?

2. Know past actions.

Go to the committee website and look for the most important resolutions, typically those mentioned in the topic paper and on Wikipedia. Heck, just print out all resolutions that have anything to do with the topic.

Realize that your committee is not the only body working on this topic; other committees and countries have probably taken action as well. Find out the most important actions taken with regard to your topic and who undertook them.

Find or develop a timeline of important events and major actions taken on the topic. The BBC generally has good ones.

3. Understand the current situation.

Do a search on Yahoo! News and Google News. Both websites search printed news, online news, and even blogs.

As with any piece of research, however, be mindful of your sources. Great local newspapers such as the Orange County Register won’t have the same quality of coverage as the New York Timesor Washington Post. It might just be better to go to the wires, or syndicated news sources, such as the Associated Press. And try to read international news such as the BBC in addition to United States-based sources.

4. Determine future outlook.

Look for predictions and trends indicating where your topic is going. Is the situation improving or deteriorating? Are the actions being taken effective or inhibitive?

Put another way, you’re looking for critiques of the current situation and recommendations for what to do in the future.

Editorials offer some pretty basic critiques. Better yet are papers provided by think tanks, such as RAND.

Be aware of bias, however. As with any website or source that you use, look out for a slant on the story or a political agenda.

If you can–or more importantly, if you have the time and mental stamina–try looking for academic papers on the topic. Try Google Scholar or, even better, go to your library or local university. Academics probably offer the most depth of any source, but they do get pretty dry and complicated.

  • Anonymous

    This was extremely helpful! Sometimes I find it overwhelming to figure out where to begin, but this definitely helped me streamline my research.

    Thank you, Ryan 🙂

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