A Getting Started Checklist is a simple brainstorming technique put in place before an analysis begins. It involves the asking and answering of some simple questions that are applicable to any intelligence problem.
In the same way as an essay outline helps you plot the major research and goals of the paper, the Getting Started Checklist helps you focus your intelligence analysis.
- What led you to the analysis in the first place?
- What is the analytic question to be answered? This is similar to a research thesis
- Why this question, what makes it important?
- Have you ever performed this analysis or a similar one before? If you have – how come you’re doing it again? If something has changed in the landscape, note what that was
- Who is the stakeholder or customer of the intelligence product?
- What are the stakeholders needs?
- What are all the potential answers to the analytic question? This is a brainstorming activity. The Analysis of Competing Hypothesis (ACH) tool may help you take advantage of this work
- What sources of information can you use? Have you used in the past? To help you answer the analytic question
As you work through these questions it will become more clear what information you do and don’t have in order to begin your analysis. Oftentimes the Getting Started Checklist will enumerate that you are missing key sources of information or have not brainstormed all potential analytical answers.
Over time, as you perform more analyses, the potential increases for you to have conducted similar examinations in the past. This will make future work easier, because you will have an understanding of the relevant sources and potentially even a database of collected information and analysis in which to work with.
As you finish your analysis, you may wish to return to your Getting Started Checklist and see how your original brainstorming and assumptions have changed. This will help sharpen your analysis going forward.