When you are searching informations on a specific topic : a brand, a keyword or list of keywords and you want to get relevant web sites, blogs, documents (pdf, ppt, doc), people's name, companies, competitors etc ...
If you use google search : how many time do you spend on such research ? when and why do you give up ? Do you give up overhelmed by the number of results or you don't know where to start ?
(if you use other tools, i would appreciate if you tell us which ones and why ?)
As a tech marketer - I am always looking for the fastest, cheapest yet reliable research in order to create competitive intelligence internal documents, stats for blog posts, etc.
Some people live by the "if it isn't on the first page, it doesn't matter" when it comes to leveraging search engines as a research tool.
However, often when we are looking for value, we have to realize that anything REALLY worthwhile these days from a content perspective is typically gated behind a web form, or nestled inside a blog post.
So, expect to spend a few hours in order to get through all the form gates, and also make sure you're using as specific and direct search terms as possible - then getting more generic if results are not ideal.
Some other tips:
-Have a few "burner" email addresses setup with gmail or hotmail, etc. - these allow you to get content when filling out forms to get White Papers, Reports, Case Studies, etc. without your primary inbox getting stuffed with marketing emails.
-In the form fill process, if available put "student" or "researcher" as typically sales reps pass by these "leads" when the form gets dumped into the CRM queue.
-Don't forget specialty search sites and tools like Wolfram Alpha for more "numbers" derived searches.
-Also, like your question here - always seek the wisdom of crowds in addition to machine learning algorithms!
Hope this is helpful! Search on!
"Until I am satisfied."
The actual amount of time varies widely. If it is a topic I am only casually interested in knowing more about (the winner of season 124 of American Idol, for example), the time spent searching is pretty minimal. Whereas if I am looking to prove my point, or win random trivia, I am likely to spend more time.
If it is business related, then I spend as much time as needed to satisfy the objective. For example, if I am looking for competitors for a new venture, I know that spending many hours researching is a small investment for the knowledge gained of the industry. But I would never spend 2-4 hours searching for a trivia answer. Searching for competitive keywords may add up to hours per month, but directly coincides with a return of my investment.
What are you really trying to find out? =)
If you're researching because you're thinking about risking a lot of money, then research everything. But if you just want to know which rice cooker to buy, open the first three search results in different tabs, read what you find, and ask yourself if you have enough information. You probably do, and are just suffering from personal indecision.
For more on this idea ("just enough" information), google "satisficing." For some things, I'd rather spend 5 minutes for 80% of the information than three hours for 90% of the information.