How do intelligence analysts prepare for investigations?

1. Understand how you or your team conduct investigations

The first step is to understand how you or your team conduct research. Is there a specific workflow and/or playbook to follow? Or are investigators themselves responsible for defining their own goals and processes? Investigators must fully understand what the objectives of the investigation are, as this will help guide their activities and determine which data is considered valuable and which can be de-prioritized.

2. Create a list of questions to answer

Analysts must fully understand the line of investigation and the questions to be answered. These lines of inquiry and questions to be answered will guide the investigation and provide additional context which is critical to the framework of the investigation/operation. Alternatively, it may be helpful to identify key stakeholders who can be consulted to provide input or add value to the investigation.

3. Always challenge assumptions

Investigations may begin without some form of preliminary work being completed. However, risks may arise if investigations are transferred from one analyst, team or department to another. It is imperative that analysts critically examine any key assumptions that have been made in order to remove existing biases and unsubstantiated claims from the starting point.

4. Reflect and reflect on your preparations, both mental and physical.

Surveys place time pressure on analysts or limit capacity. However, avoid "jumping right in" until the time is right. Taking a step back from the investigation and making sure you are mentally and physically prepared will improve long-term efficiency and effectiveness.

This step boils down to considering the following aspects of the investigation. What do I know, what are my tools, and what questions am I trying to answer? This will help the analyst reduce "going astray" during the investigation.

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