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Reviewing research results

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In almost any research project, you could conceivably continue forever.  When do you stop?  Knowing when to stop and review your results is a key research skill. 

There are a few signals that will tell you when to stop looking.  When you begin finding repeated references to the same article, author, or statistic, it is safe to conclude that you have been fairly comprehensive in your approach. 

Another signal is when you have exhausted all possible sources.  Whether or not you have found what you had hoped to find, it is probably time to stop looking.  Finally, when you run out of either time or money, you will need to stop the search.

It is a good idea to review the results once or more along the way, while you still have time and money to supplement or verify the results if needed. 

First, take the time you need to compare the information you have gathered against the questions you’re trying to answer. 

You may realize that a few of the data points have appeared in multiple sources, whereas some data points remain missing. 

Second, begin writing up your summary and plugging data into tables as you review, before you finish the research. 

This process sometimes reveals gaps or inconsistencies that require a bit more searching to clarify.

Another strategy useful in reviewing your results is to compare the steps of your search against the sources you know you need to consult. 

Occasionally, a key source gets overlooked in the process, and a review of results would reveal that omission.  Ideally you still have the time and the budget to pick up additional sources, as needed.

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