Taking the time to pay attention

Teapot and teacups

Image from freeimages.co.uk

On TV’s The Mentalist the title character uses his charm and his observational skills to catch criminals.  When he amazes people with one of his displays, he insists that he is simply paying attention.  Paying attention matters in research as well.

Take a Google search screen or a database search screen.  If you don’t look around and pay attention, you can miss important features for refining your search.  Specific features may differ, but the habit of paying attention transcends a particular resource.

Paying attention takes time.  Our TV sleuth often has a cup of tea as he meets the suspects in a case.  This gesture buys him time to observe the people and the surroundings.  His observations help him close cases.  Likewise taking the time to carefully observe our search results saves time in the long run.

Even those of us used to searching can always practice this skill.  I was teaching a session and could not find the mouse for the classroom computer.  I had failed to notice the drawer which held the mouse (Ironically the session concerned attentive searching!).

I watch the show because I like the actors in it.  If I pay attention to a useful insight in the process, so much the better!