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Access electronic sources. College and public libraries provide retrieval services that permit access to a wide array of books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other online literature. In addition, you could conduct an online Google search turning up thousands of hits, which can be overwhelming. Expect to be deluged with torrents of information, presenting a troubling paradox: research seems to be far more difficult to conduct in the digital age than in previous times.Footnote With so much data drowning today's researchers, they struggle to sort through it all, trying to decide what is current, relevant, and credible. Help is on the way, however! You'll learn more about researching and using electronic sources effectively in Chapter 11.
Search manually. Valuable background and supplementary information is available through manual searching of resources in public and college libraries. These traditional sources include books and newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. Other sources are encyclopedias, reference books, handbooks, dictionaries, directories, and almanacs.
Investigate primary sources. To develop firsthand, primary information for a project, go directly to the source. In helping to launch a Gap store in Canada, you might travel to possible sites and check them out. If you need information about how many shoppers pass by a location or visit a shopping center, you might conduct a traffic count. If you needed information about consumers, you could search blogs, Twitter, wikis, and Facebook fan pages. To learn more about specific shoppers, you could use questionnaires, interviews, or focus groups. Formal research often includes scientific sampling methods that enable investigators to make accurate judgments and valid predictions.
Conduct scientific experiments. Another source of primary data is experimentation. Instead of merely asking for the target audience's opinion, scientific researchers present choices with controlled variables. Assume, for example, that the management team at Gap wants to know at what price and under what circumstances consumers would purchase jeans from Gap instead of from Abercrombie & Fitch. Instead of jeans, let's say that management wants to study the time of year and type of weather conditions that motivate consumers to begin purchasing sweaters, jackets, and cold-weather gear. The results of such experimentation would provide valuable data for managerial decision making. Because formal research techniques are particularly necessary for reports, you will study resources and techniques more extensively in Unit 4.
Do I really need to write this e-mail, memo, or letter? A phone call, an IM inquiry, or a quick visit to a nearby coworker might solve the problem—and save the time and expense of a written message. On the other hand, some written messages are needed to provide a permanent record or to develop a thoughtful plan.
Why am I writing? Know why you are writing and what you hope to achieve. This will help you recognize what the important points are and where to place them.
How will the reader react? Visualize the reader and the effect your message will have. Imagine that you are sitting and talking with your reader. Avoid speaking bluntly, failing to explain, or ignoring your reader's needs. Shape the message to benefit the reader. Remember that e-mails may very well be forwarded to someone else and that ill-conceived social media posts can trigger very public reactions.
What channel should I use? It's tempting to use e-mail for much of your correspondence. However, a phone call or face-to-face visit is a better channel choice if you need to

convey enthusiasm, warmth, or another emotion;
supply a context; or
smooth over disagreements.
A business letter is better when the matter requires

a permanent record,
confidentiality, or
formality.
A social media response is needed to reply to certain public posts whenever time is of the essence.

How can I save my reader's time? Think of ways that you can make your message easier to comprehend at a glance. Use bullets, asterisks, lists, headings, and white space to improve readability.