What is a Think Tank and How Can it Benefit Society?

By  //  February 4, 2022

You may have come across the term ‘think tank’ during your travels, and while it may be fairly easy to deduce its function upon first glance, you might still be wondering what the point of it actually is. 

A think tank is an institution typically comprised of a range of free thinkers and scholars who conduct valuable Research pertaining to many aspects of modern life. 

While they are often independent of any political affiliation or at least claim to be, some of them tend to work closely with governments and militaries in order to provide them with ideas and strategies regarding policy. 

Think tanks are usually private organizations that are funded from donations, grants, or personal contributions, allowing them to retain their independent status in many cases. 

What exactly can they do to benefit the wider society? How do they affect the present reality? Whether you want to get involved in what can be an exciting and immensely rewarding area of academia, or you just wanted to know more about what a think tank gets up to, here are some important points to consider. 

A Vision of Improvement

Think tanks come in all shapes and sizes, and they can belong to a myriad of sectors and cover a great many types of industry. One element that they share, however, is that they are all working towards a vision of betterment for their respective areas of study. 

Whether it happens to be social policy, military, ecology, or countless other areas, the ultimate goal is to utilize their Research to make informed decisions or to help companies make better decisions in the future. 

Some think tanks will be used by the government to help them make policies, and this does not mean they need to necessarily lean in one particular direction or another. For example, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies surmises that they should take a bipartisan approach to aid foreign policy. 

Rational thought and Research, when combined with the power of an organization or a movement with enough right resources, can be extremely beneficial tools for society, particularly one that recognizes the need for progression and evolution. 


Plenty of think tanks carry an agenda with them in their Research or an ideology that drives their methodology and helps them choose their partners. 

This might be particularly prevalent in politically oriented think tanks, however. Research institutes often possess core values that are intrinsic to their work and their reason for Research. 

However, this may impede upon a research institution’s ability to remain impartial. A key component in the sanctity of any research project is the researcher’s ability to carry out studies through an unbiased lens. 

Conversely, there are plenty of think tanks that strive for total impartiality and have no discernable ideology to influence their aims and results. 

Research bias has always been a problem in academia, and learning how to avoid these biases should be a priority for any thinker wishing to get serious about their studies. 

Totally unbiased Research is somewhat difficult to obtain, yet striving for impartiality can improve society’s general understanding of the world, thus benefiting a wider reality – the importance of critical thinking and the many enlightening results it can provide. 

How Does it Conduct Research?

Think tanks can employ many different methods of Research to get the job done. For example, they might utilize a mix of investigative journalism, conferences, debates, experiments, surveys, observations, diagnostics, or a host of others at any given time. 

By compiling results from a range of sources and methods, strategies can then be firmly established using solid evidence and handed to organizations in order for them to optimize their efforts or streamline their policies. 

How to Get a Job at a Think Tank

Generally, institutes that thrive on their ability to promote free thinking and natural curiosity will welcome those who have a background in academia, so if you want to be part of an important and often cutting-edge part of modern Research, pursuing higher learning could be one of the best ways to go. 

While any degree from a recognized and respected institution should be able to prepare you fairly well for working in a think tank, many people choose to first enroll at a think tank before going on to pursue their higher education. 

It can be a great stepping stone for preparing your mind for the tough road ahead, and depending on what you want to achieve with your career, joining a think tank could be one of the more viable ways to directly influence society. 

It is worth noting that generally, people do tend to get a degree in a field like PPE, foreign policy, politics, sociology, or data science before they start their career at a think tank. 

You may find that by pursuing a degree, you can receive a placement in a think tank via your institution too. There are many higher learning institutes that contain think tanks attached to them, which might be worth bearing in mind when you come to choose your degree. 

What Does Their Work Look Like? 

You may have already seen the work of a think tank being put into play without having recognized it, such is the power of their ability to influence and lobby behind the scenes. 

Their output of work usually consists of articles and academic studies or strategies and models that other businesses use to make changes to their infrastructure. 

It may also simply take the form of thoughts and ideas, however, rather than a concrete and tangible item or object. 

Are They Effective?

Think Tanks are at their most effective when they are able to make room for healthy debate and discussion, when they inspire progression and innovation, or when they find solutions to long-standing issues in society, science and politics. 

Without curious free thinkers, just like yourself (on the assumption you made it this far), they would fail to make any real and meaningful impact, so if you are interested, why not think about it?