Follow TV Tropes


Doing Research

Go To

"I'm going to the crime scene to see what I can find out. You guys research the Polgara demon."
Buffy, "Goodbye Iowa" and most other episodes

A new monster has arrived in town and it’s already beaten off our heroes once. Is it time to get dangerous?

No. It’s time to hit the books.

Our characters head to the Magical Library to consult the Great Big Book of Everything and the Tomes of Eldritch Lore. They search the Omniscient Database and scan samples with the Everything Sensor, possibly with the help of a Hard-Work Montage. Only when all avenues have been exhausted will they summarise their findings and formulate a new plan (which the audience may or may not be privy to).

Doing Research is the favourite pastime of Mr. Exposition, The Smart Guy, the Badass Bookworm and The Team Normal. It is most common on Monster of the Week shows, although Mystery of the Week has its fair share.

Where Science Hero revels on this, Action Hero revels on Training from Hell and Time to Unlock More True Potential to achieve their goal.


Not to be confused with Shown Their Work, which is about writers doing research.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Robin: Tim spends a fair amount of time looking information up trying to track down the identity, most likely location or powers and allies of an opponent or other oddity he's encountered. On at least one occasion he and Steph worked together to figure out the identity and location of some kidnappers by working with an old computer in Oracle's clocktower while bouncing ideas off each other.

    Films — Animated 
  • In "The Science of Magic" short preceding the film My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, Sunset decides to look into how the Humane Six's new magic works, with science. She ends up battered by magic and the results themselves are inconclusive.
    Sunset Shimmer: Finally, after all this testing, I've come to a definitive conclusion! [cough] I have no idea how magic works in this world. [groan]

    Films — Live Action 
  • In the film Ghostbusters (1984), After Dana Barrett reports strange paranormal events in her apartment to the Ghostbusters, they investigate. The name Gozer comes up in the investigation prompting Dr. Egon Spengler (a formal paranormal researcher turned Ghostbuster) to research info on the unusual design of the apartment building, as well as the information on who Gozer could refer to. He determines that Gozer was an ancient Hittite god and that the apartment was built by a Gozer worshiper (Ivo Shandor) with the intent of acting as a portal to bring Gozer back to the earthly world. He explains all this to the Ghostbusters in a scene towards the end of the film. He would also serve as the main researcher role in the sequel too.

  • Once a book in Harry Potter, the trio will head to the huge Hogwarts library to find new lore. This is generally undertaken by Hermione. Expect Hogwarts: A History to be used.
  • Alice's entire purpose as the scholar for The Witch Watch involves doing research and so it's not surprising her first reaction to the situation is to hit the books.
  • In Simple Complications this is how Abigail contributes to both the ghost and coded documents plotlines.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, before she goes to Norway, Nikita has her half-brother Kosma do research on berserks and Norse gods. She also repeatedly sends Karma photos and data about the Red Shirts she killed so that the tech genius can figure out who hired them.
  • There's a lot of this in It. After the Losers' Club gets together and they compare stories of having encountered the monster, Bill questions his dad about Derry's sewer system and goes to the library to read up on what kind of creature they might be dealing with. Mike brings his father's "Derry album" down to the Barrens so they can research the town's history (and after the events of 1958, he interviews several older Derry residents about what they saw during key tragic events). They excavate and build their underground clubhouse and turn it into a "smoke-hole," hoping they'll have a vision so they can personally see something that will help them defeat It. And so on.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry will sometimes start doing this at the start of dangerous cases or when he encounters some creature or magic he's not very familiar with. This usually involves consulting Bob the Skull in his lab, who usually knows a huge amount of information about most magical monsters. It's relatively rare for Bob to not provide a wealth of information, usually when it's either something to do with Heaven and Hell, or the necromancer Kemmler.

     Live Action TV  
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer involved research nearly every episode, although generally Buffy was patrolling while the other Scoobies hit the books. Giles was even the school's librarian.
    • Angel had the same thing. Fred and Wes traded off or went together for research roles, sometimes with Cordelia joining in, though Gunn occasionally got in on it in season 5. Before Wesley joined the team in season 1, Cordelia did most of the research, often using the internet. Fred became part of the team in early season 3.
  • The title character of Merlin does this very often, usually with the help of his mentor Gaius.
  • Many episodes of Supernatural involve one of them, usually Sam, trying to find out what they might be facing and/or how to kill it by this method. This is mostly done by him searching the web for odd occurrences first, then researching in the library. There's also that book their dad wrote.
  • This is one of Artemus Gordon's responsibilities on The Wild Wild West. He's the one who dives into the books - sometimes piles of them - in order to dig out and correlate any relevant bits of data. He's also usually the one who gets in touch with the "research department" and other sources of information back in Washington, D. C.
  • Every episode of MythQuest. Alex and Cleo's father is lost somewhere inside a myth. Alex and Cleo take turns going into myths to look for him, but they never know what myth they'll be going into until they're in it. That, combined with the fact that changing the outcome of the myth would destroy the real world, means that one of them is constantly doing research about mythology and the specific myths they're in.
  • Anytime the Science Heroes of Star Trek encounter a new threat, they immediately hit the Starfleet database to look up any prior oddities that bear any resemblance to whatever they're now facing.

     Tabletop Games 

     Video Games 
  • In all games from the XCOM series, the only way to stop aliens from conquering Earth is to study them. This requires analysis of their equipment, biology, and later even interrogation (see page picture). All this take many, many working hours of the most brilliant minds on the planet.
  • The Secret World has several missions where the player either has to conduct research into whatever monster, spirit, or lesser god they are hunting, or are the ones collecting research for others. Investigation missions take it much further, with some requiring the player to actually go online and research real or fictional websites for things like SSN numbers for books or finding the serial numbers for in-game electronics and machinery.

  • In the "So a Date at the Mall" arc of El Goonish Shive, the way Ellen, Nanase, Charlotte, and Diane react to the appearance of a mysterious cloaked figure is not to go out and search the surrounding area, but rather to read up, track every sighting, and look for a pattern. Ellen isn't very happy about having to hit the books, so, of course she's the one who comes up with the eventual breakthrough.
  • Dominic Deegan and his allies weren't adverse to looking up new information on whatever threat they were facing before rushing off to confront it. A good chunk of the plan for the "Storm of Souls" arc only came about because Dominic researched the nature of what they were confronting and detailed a plan to counteract it. It wasn't perfect, though, as they were still instances of outdated information and simply wrong conclusions.

     Western Animation  
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: One of Uncle's many Catch Phrases is "We must do reeesearch!" Of course, given that many of the threats the cast faces are ancient and tend to be documented in historic texts and legend, it's generally applicable to the situation.

  • In one of his stand-up routines, Louis C.K. tells of how his daughter was bitten on the leg by a wild pony in Italy, after which she immediately hit the internet to read up on ponies. And, says Louis, "it turns out, they're assholes! They bite all the time!"

Example of: