As a paranormal investigator, I have found that investigations take many different forms. There are sometimes subtle differences, but other times they are blatantly on different ends of the spectrum. I have experienced both ends, as well as things that, to me, are completely off of the scale. A seemingly desperate cry for help with a paranormal situation, has often times ended in an absolute lack of paranormal activity. This plea is still a cry for help, and regardless of how ridiculous the situation or claims may be, those of us who are in this field for the right reasons will always try to help.
My team and I have found ourselves in some truly comical situations, and even though we may laugh at the time, we still search for anything that may help the person who asked. Other times, we have been confronted with spiritual activity that was so incredibly negative, it was down-right evil. Each of these types of cases is important and not only have extreme differences, but also begin in much the same way.
No matter what the request and claims may be, when time allows, the first step to any investigation should be historical research. I have heard many people argue that this taints an investigation, but I suppose it all depends on your purpose. Whether you only seek to find proof of the paranormal, are trying to find out who may be haunting a location, or are seriously trying to help a spirit to move on to the place they are meant to be, historical research will help with any of these cases.
In the case of finding evidence only, knowing the history, who lived or died there, and other significant events can clue an investigator in, so they know what activities to look for, and how to positively stir the phenomenon. For example, if a young girl died in a fire, candles or open flames could certainly stir activity.
When the goal is to try to discern who is haunting a location, lists can be made through researching. Each person who lived there, and anyone else who may have ties to the location could be called out during a specific part of an investigation, and then the reaction of e.m.f. fluctuations, as well as e.v.p. recordings could help answer the question.
As far as the last type, when wanting to help a spirit/entity, it is always best to know as much about the history of the land, building, family, etc. This is typically the type of investigating my team does. In one particular case, thanks to knowing the history, we were able to help a spirit find peace after over a century of being trapped in anguish and hatred. In fact, on that particular case, there were three family members whom we believe found peace and happiness.
The point being, if we had not attempted to research at our first opportunity, we would have missed out on some of the most important information, and we would have only known about the child, and not about her parents and their plight. Without knowing the whole story, my team and I would have approached this case quite differently, and very likely, would have failed. A negative energy that had taken hold of this young spirit and she had been lost to the world. In the beginning, we did not know her story, and her purpose. Let me just say, at the onset of this investigation, our lives became a living hell. She took turns haunting, and terrifying each of my team members. It wasn’t until we began to learn her story, and use that knowledge to relate to her, that she stopped being malevolent, and eventually we were able to separate her from the negative energy that plagued her. It was only through understanding her past, that we were able to help her to have a more beautiful future. Helping a living breathing person to understand the paranormal activity they have experienced, or even being able to alleviate those experiences, is a very great feeling. Helping a spirit who is, or believes they are trapped, find their proper place and connection to the universe brings an unequaled feeling of gratification. There is nothing more satisfying, in my opinion.