Researching for a Model UN committee. Some love it, some hate it. Some think deep research is an invaluable part of preparing and some like to just cover the basics and see what they can do on the fly, in the room. I’m a part of the former camp, but regardless of your feelings on research it’s undeniable that you must have a baseline understanding of your position and background to succeed in committee.
The following guide will teach you how to research a crisis position in a present or historical committee, given that the position actually existed. An article about preparing for futuristic committees with invented positions or any type of made-up position is coming soon.
Where you should look: The Background Guide, Wikipedia (gasp), Online Encyclopedias (like Britannica), The First Page of Google
In this portion of research I’m looking for the essential facts about my position and the world and time period the committee is set in. I would keep an eye out for position background information, maps, and major events.
Obviously, the first thing to do is read the background guide. Print out the guide. Not only will you be able to carry it into committee to reference when you need it (as most conferences do not allow electronics during committee), you can also mark up the guide by making highlights and margin notes when needed. I typically read a guide thoroughly multiple times. To find out tips and tricks to making the most out of your background guide reading, click here.
When you’ve identified your position, the other positions in the room, the time period, and the historical events that start off the committee continue on to the next step. Make sure to take notes as you go, write down all the important information that you find, and highlight key points.
The next thing I do is Google my position’s name. Typically one of your top hits will be the Wikipedia page for your position. If that’s the case, click on the link to Wikipedia and begin reading. I usually print out all my major research sources resulting in the decimation of a small forest’s amount of paper and a bizarrely large stack of stapled packets. That’s up to you. I, again, like to highlight and write in the margins as ideas pop into my head or I find important facts.
I’ll also check out the Wikipedia pages for any notable events mentioned in the background guide that I’ve highlighted as well as the key locations for the committee. You want to form a holistic understanding of the world you’re operating in. Another resource for researching both the world and your position is the online Encyclopedia Britannica. I recommend using a few sources in case anything important has slipped through the cracks.
The last thing I would do for baseline preparation is print out maps. Now, this may depend on the committee you’re in, but I’ve always been a believer in the importance of maps–even as a backup. I’ve had good luck sending maps in crisis arcs to better explain my plans and they’ve turned me into the go-to delegate to consult with during war games. Always print out a few of your committee’s location, as well as any places that might come into play mentioned in the background guide.
Where you should look: Niche Websites, Youtube Videos, Wikipedia Citations, The Second Page of Google
If you are a crazy prepper like I am, the basics are not enough to feel ready for committee. When I go into competition, I don’t just want to know who my position is, I want to be them. Having a full and complete understanding of my position allows me to take action that I feel is representative of what would actually happen from my position’s motivations and in the world. At this level I would look for my position’s interests, family/friends, education, and assets.
During my time as training coordinator I created a crisis committee research outline which is loosely based on Rutgers University “The Crisis Handbook v1.2” (an awesome guide which is available online, for free at the time this article was written). You can access the crisis committee research outline, also free, by clicking here or under the Training Materials tab. This outline helps breakdown the most important aspects to understanding your position and your position’s motivations.
This research is a great way to spark ideas for a crisis arc and, at the very least, will give you a good idea of resources you can use either in your arc or in a pinch. Typically I derive my crisis arcs from my position’s interests and job history. I’ll use family and friends as contacts to help me in my arc, draw upon skills and contacts from education, and use my assets in my plan. This isn’t to say that coming up with an unrelated arc is a bad idea, this is just an easy path to creating one. It also provides assets and contacts to use down the line if you find yourself needing them. We’ll have an article about building a crisis arc soon!
At this level, I would research more about the society my committee is set in at a macro level. I would look at the history of the central topic, how society functions at this time period, and the actors in recent history who have affected the topic.
YouTube videos, especially if you’re in a complex committee with a background unfamiliar to you, can be a lifesaver in breaking down intricate political and economic ideas. The CrashCourse channel is fantastic for anything ranging from history to technology to science to economics. (They even have videos on public speaking and projecting confidence, but I digress). Understanding the context of your position within the committee and then the context of your committee within the outside world is important!
How Did I Even Get Here
Where you should look: Google Books (Autobiographies, Biographies, Textbooks, Historical Books, Books Your Position Wrote), Full-Length Documentaries, The Tenth Page of Google, Bing?
If you’ve reached this point in research, congrats! You’re officially as crazy as I am. All of my teammates know I’m insane like this, but it’s what has worked for me. Again, disclaimer, everyone performs differently. I’m here to share how I succeed in committee through research.
At this level I would do a cursory search on the background of other positions. I would also look for niche facts about my position that would help give me ideas for interesting crisis arc ideas and resources. To sum it up, the importance of this level is to look for more assets and standout crisis ideas. Sometimes I struggle coming up with a unique crisis idea (trying to differentiate myself from the age old cult arc) and I’ve based entire arcs off of something I’ve seen in a documentary or a line from a Google Book.
This is where I finalize my confidence in the subject going into committee. Most research at this point will serve to reinforce the research you’ve already done, but there can still be new facts and stories that affect how you approach committee. Just doing a brief skim of the Wikipedia pages for other positions can also give you an idea of what others may be up to over the weekend. All of this information should come together to shape your debate, your crisis arc, and your general committee attitude.
Like it is said, everyone researches differently to prepare for Crisis Committees! Questions, comments, and concerns can be shared with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our “Contact” page. All feedback is appreciated!