Researching with SWOT Analysis

Article 3 min
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis is a strategic planning technique that identifies key internal and external factors to consider for decision making and action planning.

Performing a SWOT allows you to identify the root issue or problem you face, set or reaffirm attainable goals and create a strong action plan.

SWOT is one of several environmental scanning and monitoring techniques, including:

  • PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental)
  • PMESII-PT (politics, military, economy, society, information structure, infrastructure, physical environment and time)
  • QUEST (Quick Environmental Scanning Technique)

You can perform a SWOT analysis for an initiative, product, industry or person. On their Community Tool Box website, the University of Kansas noted that SWOT functions as a guide for an organization to develop a fuller awareness of the situation and leverage that toward making stronger strategic plans and tactical decisions.

Environmental scanning means tracking trends; monitoring organizations and engagements; identifying current and future technologies; and analyzing tactical, operational and strategic issues. This research is critical for rapidly and comprehensively prioritizing issues to best advise commanders.

A SWOT analysis can be a great tool for public affairs professionals. The University of Kansas noted that this type of analysis allows you to:

  • Explore possibilities for new efforts.
  • Propose solutions to problems.
  • Make decisions about the best path for an initiative.
  • Determine where change is possible.
  • Adjust and refine plans mid-course.

Explore each factor of SWOT to learn what to analyze when performing an environmental scan.

Click a target to reveal more in-depth information.

SWOT Analysis

A blue grid
A green flexing arm


Strengths are positive internal factors. They describe the capabilities or resources that the organization can bring to bear to achieve the desired result.


  • Financial resources.
  • Capital assets, infrastructure and equipment.
  • Operational efficiency.
  • Noteworthy capabilities.
  • Organization culture.
  • Key staff.
  • Strong partnership/relationship with contacts.
  • Access, reach and awareness.
  • Skills, experience and knowledge.
An orange cross-hair


Weaknesses are negative internal factors that would undermine the organization, project or initiative.


  • Gaps in capabilities or resources. 
  • Known vulnerabilities.
    • Lack of knowledge.
    • Security.
  • Competing priorities.
  • Recommended improvement areas.
A blue door, slightly open


Opportunities are positive external factors that you could take advantage of in the context of the objective of the SWOT analysis.


  • Events or trends.
  • Relationships or partnerships.
  • New information.
  • Practices adopted by other organizations/actors.
  • Potential funding sources.
  • Possible efficiency gains from reallocation of resources.
  • Other initiatives, actions, projects or products that relate to the project/initiative under consideration.
  • Advantages, benefits or probable results that are offered by the project/initiative that is being considered in the SWOT.
A red caution sign


Threats are negative external factors that could endanger and be harmful the desired result. You can use environmental scanning and monitoring techniques, like PEMSII, PESTELE or QUEST to help you evaluate the environment for threats.


  • Societal changes.
  • Government regulations.
  • Risks and disadvantages.
  • Time constraints.
  • Other actors (harmful competition, contrary interests).
  • Opportunities that would be foregone if a given initiative/action is undertaken.
  • Other obstacles and environmental changes.


The University of Kansas. (n.d.). Community assessment: chapter 3. assessing community needs and resources - section 14. SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The University of Kansas.

Wolters, M. (2019, September 2). SWOT analysis explained correctly.

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