I love to research. What can I do?
July 29, 2009 10:28 PM   Subscribe

Does my dream job exist?

I'm at a career crossroads, and have been thinking about what it is I want to do.

I've found that I love researching about a topic and investigating it in depth. I then like to organize the info in some sort of coherent form. If needed, I could write a report about my findings. I find that in the evenings, when I'm surfing the Web, fulfilling my curiosity, is the time when I find myself lost in the moment. I don't have much of a foundation in science or math, btw.

Is there a job where I can do this fulltime?

Anon because my co-workers read AskMeFi and don't know I'm looking for other opportunities.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Technical writing? It would help if you had a science or math background though.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:30 PM on July 29, 2009

Try talking to a headhunter/recruiter.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:41 PM on July 29, 2009

You could look into working for the Library of Congress which operates the Congressional Research Service (CRS; wikipedia article). I don't know the qualifications you'd need but CRS does exactly what you describe - research and report compilation. The first place to look would probably be usajobs.gov and CRS' own recruiting site, located here.
If nothing else, I'm sure someone there would be happy to advise you about the field and how to find jobs. Good luck!
posted by azuresunday at 10:52 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sorry, that usajobs link should point here. Forgot to put in the www.
posted by azuresunday at 10:59 PM on July 29, 2009

There are research jobs in many fields. What are you especially interested in or good at?

Off the top of my head, many policy jobs involve a good deal of research and writing. However, you usually end up doing a lot of other stuff too (admin work when you're green, management and lobbying later on).
posted by lunasol at 11:31 PM on July 29, 2009

As lunasol syas, there are research opportunties in lots of fields, do you have a specialism in something other than maths or science, .e.g. social science, the arts, some industry? Research careers work in all of these and more.
posted by biffa at 1:57 AM on July 30, 2009

What sort of education do you have? What interests? Do you have any research experience besides surfing the web?

Sorry I answered your questions with more questions but this is really too vague.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:46 AM on July 30, 2009

From a book on starting businesses:

48. Information Broker

The information brokerage business is extremely popular these days, and need
for the service will only increase as the value of information becomes more
critical. The Internet is information, so if you have a talent for researching and
accessing public and some private records, databases, and other forms of data
warehousing, this is the business for you.

What types of information are clients looking for? Information requests can
take many forms. Lawyers may be looking for specific information to strengthen
their case. Corporations need market research to support their marketing plans.
Businesses may be looking for competitive analysis or information.

How does it work? Clients request information on a certain subject, and
you do the research, provide the client with your findings, and get paid for your
effort. This operation has fantastic international potential but also has serious
legal issues surrounding it, so make sure to have a firm grasp of your liability
before embarking on this venture. There is good news: Information brokering
can help a lot of people, so your job can be very rewarding and it’s easy to get

To successfully operate this business, you will need expertise in researching and
accessing public, and in some cases private, information over the Internet and
through traditional sources such as libraries, microfiche archives, and so on. To
update your Web site, you will need basic Web publishing skills. Your communication
skills should be concise and descriptive.

The cost to start this business will include the design, development, and hosting
of your Web site as well as a computer, appropriate software, and a printer. The
approximate start-up cost ranges between $3,000 and $7,500.

One experienced and competent individual with superior online researching
skills and resources can start this business single-handedly.

The international potential for this business is unlimited. There is no telling
where a client may reside. If you have access to the information they seek, it’s
most likely that you can e-mail it to them, and this makes the borders of your
business purely virtual and governed solely by language.

The e-business level suggested for the information brokerage business is level 1
or 2. For more information, see Part 1.

The information brokerage business sometimes infringes on the privacy of others,
and whenever this happens there are legal ramifications. Before entering
the business, you should research your liability and risk factor.

Sometimes in this business you will be under tight deadlines. Ensure that you
have additional resources you can call upon to provide a professional service.
The pricing should be clearly outlined on your site for various services that
are defined by the nature of information the client is searching for. The costs
should be competitive and reflective of the amount of time it takes to conduct
each search.

• Develop a comprehensive link strategy. It is important to be linked from
as many business service Web sites as possible, as well as related directories,
business service cybermalls, Web rings, and meta-indexes.

• Develop extensive registration in all of the major search engines with
focus on the information brokerage business and on sites where those
searching for private or inaccessible information would most likely go.
You can also develop a pay-per-click strategy with the popular search

• Organizing a reciprocal linking arrangement with private investigators,
public records organizations, libraries, and security sites will make your
business apparent to your target demographic.

• Participating in market research and other business services-related mail
lists and newsgroups may be an effective way to reach your target market

Extra income can come from conducting extensive searches and aiding private
investigators and security specialists by doing online research that they cannot
conduct. You may also advertise and recommend the services of private investigators,
genealogists, and security specialists.

Sterling Information Broker

Sterling Information Broker provides delivery of business-critical documents
with end-to-end audits and controls.

Information Broker Ireland
This company finds and extracts any information in the public domain in Ireland
and forwards it to you for a fee.
posted by rollick at 5:48 AM on July 30, 2009

To me, it sounds like you're looking for a consulting gig - think Bain, Mckinsey et al - they'll work on site on some big problem - gather all information and present a solution. Definitely focused on business - but it seems like you'd enjoy doing that. It's a rough life on the road - but it can be really interesting - and lucrative.
posted by jourman2 at 6:22 AM on July 30, 2009

I have a relative who works as a medical librarian, and part of her job is compiling info for doctors at her hospital who want "the 10 most recent articles on [condition A/drug B/procedure C]" or similar queries. Of course she also does a ton of other stuff, but I always thought that sounded fun. I believe she's got a Masters degree, though.
posted by vytae at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

follow-up from the OP "I'm currently a lawyer, and have been practicing for the last 4 years. I find the law too adversarial and the people I encounter in the profession to be uncivil. That's why I'm trying to move to something else."
posted by jessamyn at 7:35 AM on July 30, 2009

I've worked as a research assistant for a biographer, a fact checker, and a technical writer. All of those jobs use the sorts of skills you mention, and I enjoyed them all.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:49 AM on July 30, 2009

You know, I was going to say that lawyering often involves a significant amount of research. If you do research at work, does it give you the same "lost in the moment" feeling? Think about why, or why not.

I wonder if it may be that on your own time there's an unfettered ability to pursue any path and decide on any topic you want to look into - and I wonder whether it's the freedom that helps you lose yourself in the task. If so, it may be that you're looking for a career where you have more intellectual freedom to research what you want as opposed to getting a specific question from outside of yourself. In that case, I'd avoid a career where researching specific questions is your job, and instead find a career where you have tasks to achieve, and in order to accomplish a given task you can do some kind of research - but you can decide how much research to do and what kind of research to do. An example I can think of is from years ago, I worked in a general services office and one of the tasks I had was to find the best chaffing dish to buy for an organization. I had a lot of fun figuring out which one would fit our needs best. I had the freedom to research as much or as little as I wanted - the important thing was to get a dish, not to research and provide a detailed report.

Additionally, if what you love is finding answers and piecing things together, more than the act of being at the computer, then maybe you would even want a management job where others do the research for you, bring it to you, and you piece together what business (or other) decision you'll make based on the information that others have gathered and partially synthesized already.
posted by lorrer at 9:01 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a software industry analyst, and my job is essentially exactly what you describe. I talk to the most interesting companies in emerging technology sectors (desktop virtualization, the cloud) and write reports that run anywhere between 800 words and 100 pages.

I spend my days on the Web and my job is full of flow.

A legal background could be an active asset in my industry, especially in highly regulated or contested fields like HIPAA and PCI-DSS compliance, digital rights management or open source licensing.
posted by rdc at 9:53 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm another happy researcher and miserable lawyer. I ended up transitioning into grantwriting for an environmental nonprofit. Often the skills overlap very nicely: research, writing, and advocacy.

One word of caution, the work is often very self-directed, and if you can't find the energy to go scouring the interwebs and professional publications for new opportunities and projects to apply for, then you might have a hard time making this work.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2009

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