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Why (and how) you should start every research project by looking at what you already know
Maximising existing research

Why (and how) you should start every research project by looking at what you already know

We all know that research plays a critical role in the advancement of customer knowledge and understanding across an organisation. In this post, we explore why starting with existing research saves time and resources, and how teams benefit from leveraging prior knowledge.

Nick Russell
May 11, 2023

We all know that research plays a critical role in the advancement of customer knowledge and understanding across an organisation. However, conducting new research can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and costly. It’s therefore crucial for researchers to be strategic in their approach, to optimise their efforts and avoid repeating previous work.

At Dualo, we encourage researchers to take an archivist’s approach to research - always looking to start by exploring existing research and insights, before embarking on anything new. In this post, we explore why starting with existing research saves time and resources, and how teams benefit from leveraging prior knowledge.

The value of revisiting your existing research

Building on established insights

Existing research provides a foundation upon which new research can be built. The strength of an insight can decay over time, unless new evidence is discovered to support it.

Researchers should look to challenge pre-existing knowledge – and revisiting previous studies gives us an opportunity to use new research to build upon and validate if a particular insight still holds true.

By cross-referencing old and new research, we can ensure our current understanding of customer and business needs is up-to-date, and that confidence in the insights used to drive decisions remains high.

Identifying gaps in your knowledge base

Reviewing historical research allows teams to clarify the current gaps and limitations in their organisation’s existing knowledge base.

By understanding what has already been discovered, researchers can identify areas where questions remain unanswered and new research can make the most impactful contribution.

This prevents the duplication of research efforts, while ensuring that each new study is original – helping to maximise the return on investment of any new research.

Increasing collaboration across teams

When teams work in silos, they’re at risk of missing out on important insights and findings from other areas of the business.

By revisiting and combining past research, teams can identify commonalities and differences in their knowledge, leading to new ideas and opportunities for collaboration.

Using existing research to ‘connect the dots’ across teams is an effective way to develop new and innovative solutions, while improving the collective intelligence of an organisation.

Optimising the allocation of resources

Conducting new research often requires significant resources such as people, time, and funding.

By starting with existing research, teams can focus their roadmaps and optimise the allocation of their resources. They can avoid spending resources on research that has already been done, and make sure the right teammates and methods are applied to the task at hand, in order to maximise the use of everyone’s time and the outcomes of any new research.

Leaning on existing secondary research is another way to minimise internal effort.

Enhancing methodological rigour

There’s an abundance of different methods, tools, and processes available for researchers to discover new insights.

By reviewing historical research and the approaches used to discover existing insights, researchers can understand if there are opportunities to apply new methods to dig deeper into a particular topic. They can see what worked well,what didn’t work, and use this to improve their ongoing research strategy.

This helps researchers avoid repeating previous pitfalls, move towards a more mixed methods approach, and ensures that their research methodology is sound and reliable across each new research project.

Staying up-to-date with current knowledge

Research is a dynamic process, and the knowledge landscape within an organisation is constantly evolving.

By starting with existing research, teams can stay up-to-date with the latest discoveries, trends, and debates across their organisation. This allows them to contextualise their research using today’s knowledge base, contribute to the ongoing development of this, and ensure that research remains relevant and impactful.

Making existing knowledge accessible to everyone is also helpful for onboarding new joiners, helping them to get up to speed as quickly as possible, before starting to contribute new research themselves.

Existing research provides a foundation upon which new research can be built.”

How to leverage your existing research

Now we’ve looked at the benefits of starting with existing research, let's explore some practical steps that researchers can take to effectively leverage prior knowledge.

Conduct a comprehensive literature review

A literature review is a systematic process of identifying, evaluating, and synthesising existing research around a specific topic.

Researchers should conduct a ‘preliminary look back’ to identify relevant research studies - both primary and secondary. This may also include whitepapers and other industry sources that are related to the current research question.

Teams should critically evaluate the quality and relevance of existing research and synthesise the key findings to arrive at common themes, gaps and limitations, and confirm areas that require further investigation.

Review and summarise existing research

Once a research question has been formulated, researchers should start by summarising the key findings of any related existing research.

This helps researchers gain a comprehensive understanding of the state of knowledge already surrounding a research question, providing a stronger foundation for their own research.

This also helps stakeholders to consume lengthy research studies, who are looking for the ‘TL;DR’ to help them make timely decisions across the organisation, based on key research insights - both old and new. But make sure to always link an insight to its source so that it never loses its context!

Analyse and synthesise existing insights

Researchers should combine and analyse existing insights to identify patterns and emerging trends in their research data.

As well as grouping similar insights, they should look for inconsistencies, contradictions, and limitations in their existing knowledge base and use this to clarify the areas where further investigation might be needed.

Teams can also consider the different perspectives and methodologies used in prior studies to inform their own approach and understand if there is previous research that should be revisited.

Conduct a peer review with other researchers

Collaborating with colleagues is an excellent way to leverage your collective knowledge.

By bringing your existing research findings together, you can uncover previously hidden gaps and identify opportunities for new research. This provides teams with the opportunity to commission joint interdisciplinary research projects, combining diverse expertise and perspectives to solve particularly complex research questions.

Forming a peer review group can also be a constructive way to provide and receive feedback on each other's research efforts.

Refine your roadmap using existing research

Teams should look to challenge their current roadmap and objectives using existing research. This may involve asking themselves if they’re tackling the right research questions, if their methodology is appropriate, and if there are alternative studies or approaches they should consider.

Researchers can also use existing research to identify potential partners and stakeholders to bring into the process, as well as identifying new funding opportunities.

By refining your roadmap using existing research, you can ensure that your team is headed in the right direction and maximise the impact of any new research.

Share existing research with new joiners

Sharing existing research helps new joiners to onboard more efficiently, by allowing them to better understand the existing knowledge base most relevant to your current objectives. This also helps to foster a culture of continuous learning and knowledge-sharing.

By having access to previous research findings, new joiners can get up to speed faster, and start to contribute new insights and perspectives more quickly, by leveraging the existing knowledge base.

This helps improve productivity and can accelerate an organisation towards achieving its goals.


Revisiting and leveraging existing research is a valuable strategic approach for researchers. It provides teams with a solid foundation for any new research, and helps to ensure that people are always contributing to the advancement of innovation and growth within their organisation.

The archivist’s approach – of first looking back to what we already know, before starting anything new – allows researchers to leverage the full value of their existing knowledge base, while maximising the impact of their own contributions.

Leveraging existing knowledge ultimately helps researchers to increase their productivity and maximise the return on investment of any new research - helping teams to raise their internal profile within the company and make every research dollar count.

About Dualo

At Dualo, we understand the value of leveraging existing knowledge to help teams improve their research process, which is why we’ve developed a product that helps you do just that.

Our platform allows you to effortlessly deep search across all your existing research documents – providing you and your teammates with access to valuable insights in seconds. 

So if you're ready to start fully leveraging your existing knowledge, request a demo today and a member of our team will be in touch.

Nick Russell

I'm one of the Co-Founders of Dualo, passionate about research, design, product, and AI. Always open to chatting with others about these topics.

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