Intelligence Studies research explores what makes ‘easy questions’ easy


In the world of intelligence analysis, the primary goal of most projects is to reduce uncertainty for decision-makers and, so, asking and then answering the right questions can make all the difference.  Understanding, however, which of these questions are difficult and which are easy before assigning analysts to work on them allows managers to more effectively task scarce analytic resources.

As part of a research project funded by The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University examined methods for formulating questions that enabled analysts to be more accurate in their forecasting.

The research was conducted by Kristan Wheaton, J.D., associate professor of intelligence studies, and Brian Manning, an alumnus of Mercyhurst’s graduate program in applied intelligence who now works as a research project manager at the Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis at the University of Melbourne. 

They recently had an article about their work published in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Called “Making ‘Easy Questions’ Easy: The Difficulty of Intelligence Requirements,” Wheaton and Manning examined the nature of questions; criteria for what makes a good question, particularly the need for specificity and clarity; the difficulty of real-world questions in the field of intelligence; and tested patterns of “easy” versus “non-easy” questions, outlining the data accordingly.

The complete article can be viewed here.




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