No matter what type of work that you do, gathering information is an important first step. Planning an investigation? Preparing for a business decision? Conducting due diligence? All require doing your research - digging into the backgrounds and actions of individuals or businesses, looking at industry trends and best practices, or generally getting smarter before taking action.

But where do you start? What techniques help you target what you need, while navigating the problems of too much information, too little, or answers that don’t address your questions? And how do you translate findings into something you can use?

In this course, Marcy Phelps, former librarian turned private investigator with a specialty in investigative research, shares a three-step process that helps you get better results in less time. Whether you’re using online sources, interviewing witnesses, conducting surveillance, or anytime you need information to solve a problem or answer a question, learn the best approach for better research outcomes.

Course Key Concepts: Online research, Information skills, Investigative research, Web search skills, Interview skills, Background investigations, Process improvement, Research skills.

Learning Objectives


  • Recognize how a research process improves your results and saves time.
  • Discover how to prepare for your search so you can stay focused and organized.
  • Identify best practices for targeted, efficient online and primary information gathering.
  • Explore seven ways to avoid a data dump and transform your findings into actionable information.


Last updated/reviewed: March 10, 2024
4 Reviews (14 ratings)


Anonymous Author
Yet again, Marcy Phelps delivers a high-quality, informative and accessible course on investigative tactics and techniques. This is the second Illumeo course of this widely respected investigative expert's that I've taken, and I feel like I have an even broader knowledge of the steps to take when background researching. The practical, actionable tips Ms. Phelps shares, complete with specific resources, websites and tools, are valuable and especially trusted coming from a seasoned investigator of her caliber. Thank you, Ms. Phelps, once again! - KLS

Member's Profile
Interesting course, not in-depth but a good basic reminder of how to be more effective in gathering and presenting the information.

Anonymous Author
This is a good course with good information. It would be better if more examples were used on using the searching process.

Anonymous Author
Interesting presentation, excellent strategy, and great tips for someone new to the investigation process.

Course Complexity: Foundational

No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.

Education Provider Information
Company: Illumeo, Inc., 75 East Santa Clara St., Suite 1215, San Jose, CA 95113
Contact: For more information regarding this course, including complaint and cancellation policies, please contact our offices at (408) 400- 3993 or send an e-mail to .
Instructor for this course
Course Syllabus
  Introduction to Research Secrets from a Private Investigator: 3 Steps to Better Results1:54
  Research Secrets-Prepare6:30
  Research Secrets-Prepare Cont'd13:20
  Research Secrets-Search9:08:
  Research Secrets-Action11:38
  Research Secrets from a Private Investigator: 3 Steps to Better Results47:20
  Slide: Research Secrets from a Private Investigator: 3 Steps to Better ResultsPDF
  Research Secrets from a Private Investigator: 3 Steps to Better Results Glossary/ IndexPDF
  Evaluating Websites - ChecklistPDF