"There's so much to do and so little time to do it."
Mantra lines up over and over again in your head. And again. And again. Read facts, write them down, memorise them. Read facts, write them down, stuff them into a file. Read facts, write them. Read facts.
To be honest, researching is a lot of hard work. I'm not going to mince words here or attempt to deliver the blow softly; finding A-plus information and assimilating all for an MUN conference can turn ugly very quickly. I'm sure you've found yourself reading a tangle of incomprehensible facts that you otherwise couldn't be bothered about, wondering what really matters or whether you started at the right place. How about some good news? The lovely thing about modelling the United Nations is you're allowed to make a plethora of mistakes to perfect your problem solving skills. It's similar to Math - even though practising over and over again sucks harder than an eager three year old at a Tootsie Pop, your ability to solve a multitude of questions and ergo, your mathematical prowess, increase over time. Thus, I present to you my top favourite research tips, strengthened by the experience from successful, unsuccessful and plain OK conferences:
- Know yourself - I know; it sounds like the excerpt from an overly pompous inspirational speaker's speech at a high school graduation. On a more serious note, it's imperative to know the type of assimilation that works for you. Until recently, I thought visual methods worked best for me - however, I stumbled on YouTube videos and short BBC clips and voilà, better assimilation. This is not to say that you should dump your preferred method as soon as you find a new one. Incorporate. If you're visual + auditory like I am, try reading argumentative articles on your topic and then listening to say, a commentary on it from the BBC or an opinion-based video on YouTube. You'll find that a great percentage of the information stays and comes to you even when you're going absolutely blank.
- Find varied, objective resources - This is essential for first-timers and occasions where you're meeting a topic for the first time. It's easy to go with the websites that appear on the first Google Search page - the big problem with merely copying information from the first thing you see is that your research and knowledge on the topic will lack depth.
- Ask, ask, and keep asking - Don't limit yourself to more passive forms of research, such as poring over library archives or Internet articles. Ask people their opinions on the topic. There's always that one person around who's fanatic about world affairs and immerses him or herself in them - it could be a fellow MUNer. In this case, try having a conversation with him or her. You'll be surprised at what you'll find just by a conversation or even a mini-debate.
- Ima-ima-gine - Age old advice. Put yourself in the shoes of a leader - literally. Imagine you have a deadline of say, two weeks before your conference to sort out a nuclear disagreement or face global obliteration. Use this when you're buried under piles of excess information - it forces you to think of the situation dynamically. Since your solutions may differ, you can then troubleshoot it by asking people what they think about it or finding counter-arguments. Fly, be free.
Personalize your research. Fall in love with it. Tackle the issue as though your life depends on it, and watch your debating research skills bloom.
- Eyram A. Agbe