What does a researcher do?
Researchers are key to any production because they find the people, the places, the facts, figures and stories that are at the heart of every TV show. In other words, the content.
Researchers spend a lot of the time on the phone and looking online trying to find the right material for a show, from stories and locations to props, products and information. They may have to read endless documents or books, watch hours of footage, do background checks on people, fact-check figures or chase statistics to ensure their research stands up. Researchers often prepare a ‘brief’, which is a final document containing the information a producer needs. This may be used to clarify the content to a channel commissioner or to give a presenter information before a shoot. Sometimes on an outside broadcast, like a royal wedding or a football match, they might sit next to the presenter feeding them the information they need as the event unfolds.
While a lot of research is carried out from the office, the role can also require travel. Researchers may need to interview potential contributors, ‘recce’ locations or see an event or show. They often attend and assist with filming.
Practically speaking, researchers handle a lot of the logistical nitty-gritty, from organising travel for contributors and the delivery and storage of props to clearing footage and ensuring forms are signed and documents filed.
Researchers are mainly freelance and work from project to project, although they are occasionally staff on ongoing productions such as news or sport. Some researchers specialise in certain areas of production, such as ‘casting’ where they could be looking for dancers for a talent show, for example, or house hunters for a property programme.
What’s a researcher good at?
- Learning: be curious and enjoy looking for what a programme needs, take an interest in content and different subjects, don’t be afraid to ask questions
- Communication: be a good talker, confident when meeting people and be clear about what you are looking for and why
- Problem solving: jump over any hurdle to find the best material, think laterally and use initiative to ensure solutions are found
- Writing: create concise and factual documents that present your research clearly
- Organisation: document your day-to-day research with times and dates, keep paperwork in order, work to deadlines