Most projects require information to complete. Rather than just randomly asking for information, you need a plan. When you begin to think about the information you will need, you need to ask yourself some basic questions about the project. These questions are unique to each project, but there is a common approach you can take that can help you.
A mind map is a useful tool for thinking about the project. Consider the following example:
Your assignment is to develop a new system for improving freshmen student performance in a college. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Put a brief label for your project goal in the center of the paper. Now think about the major factors that are likely to influence your project’s goal. These are shown as ovals around your goal. See Exhibit 1.
You may want to review your mind map with others to be sure you have included all of the key factors to be considered.
Once you have the mind map developed, you can begin to identify the information that you need. Start with the center oval. In our case, this is student performance. For the center oval, ask yourself: “What information do we need to indicate what the problem is?” The answers to this question for our student performance example might be
- Student grade point average (college)
- Credit hours completed
Obviously we would need information on these two performance measures.
Next look at each of the major factors that can explain student performance. Make a list of the information that might be obtained for each of the ovals. Let’s take a look at the oval for high school preparation. What information might you collect that relates to high school prepartation? While there is no correct answer to this question, you would probably look at information on
- ACT/SAT test scores
- High school grades in math/science
- High school rankings
Now look at the factors. What information might you collect that relates to these factors?