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George I.

@george_ii20

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How to plan a research project

Planning research projects requires creativity and sharp analytical skills.

Any research planning uses the same four steps:

  1. Orienting yourself to knowledge-creation
  2. Formulating your research question.
  3. Reviewing previous research on your question.
  4. Selecting the information needed to answer your question.

@george_ii20

How to plan a research project | Psyche Guides

psyche.co

Orienting yourself for research planning requires you to stop thinking like a student, which treats knowledge as something created by other people.

  • Instead of consuming information, adjust your thinking to a producer of information.
  • Question previous claims - even if it comes from a revered source such as Plato or Marie Curie - and perhaps point out previously accepted ideas as wrong or incomplete.

Forming a good question is often the most difficult part of the planning process. This is because the exact language of the question frames the rest of the project. Most researchers do this step repeatedly as they change their question in light of previous research and other constraints.

  • Find a subject that is interesting to you.
  • It should be feasible within your resource constraints, such as time and money.
  • It should lead to new and distinctive insights.

The 'literature review' section in academic research demonstrated that researchers have thoroughly and systematically reviewed relevant findings of previous studies on the topic.

  • Your research project should include something similar to a 'literature review.'
  • Write at least six bullet points describing the major findings on your topic by other people.
  • Using this, you should be able to point out where you could provide new and required insights.

Two basic rhetorical positions can help you frame the novelty-and-importance argument in academic research.

  • Build on or extend a set of existing ideas. 'Person A has argued that X is true. This implies Y, which has not yet been tested. My project will test Y. If I find evidence to support it, it will change the way we view X.'
  • Argue that there is a gap in existing knowledge, either because previous research reached conflicting conclusions or failed to consider something important.

The overall goal is to show that your research will be part of a larger conversation: How your project flows from what's already known, how it advances, extends, or challenges the existing knowledge.

At some point, you'll need to consider which data source and analytical strategy are most likely to give the answers you need.

  • Consider whether your question would be best addressed by qualitative data (interviews, observations, or historical records), quantitative data (surveys or census records) or a combination of both.
  • You might need to collect your own data, or it might be available in an existing database.

The point is to plan research, not to conduct it. The purpose of this step is to think through a feasible approach to answering your research question. You might reevaluate and revise while planning your project as new and unexpected avenues are revealed.

A systematic approach will establish the building blocks of your research project.

  • Clearly describe the question you've chosen to study.
  • Summarise the state of the art in knowledge about the question, and where your project could provide novel insight.
  • Identify the best strategy for collecting and analysing relevant data.

Ask yourself:

  1. What will be the general topic of your paper?
  2. What will be the specific topic of your paper?

Write down your answers in bullet points accepting that you'll probably change your answers as you read other studies on your topic.

These questions should drive your analysis.

  • Your question(s) should be phrased in a way that you can't answer 'yes' or 'no.'
  • It should have multiple plausible answers.
  • It should be framed in terms of How? or What?, instead of asking Why?

Your background information should come from scholarly books and journals, or reputable mass media sources. Use search engines such as JSTOR and Google Scholar.

Create an annotated bibliography by providing at least ten sources relevant to your topic.

  • Name of author(s).
  • Publication date.
  • Title of book, chapter, or article.
  • If it is a chapter or article, write the journal's title or book where they appear.
  • A brief description of this work, including the main findings and methods.
  • A summary of how this work contributes to your project.
  • A brief description of the implications of this work.
  • Identify and gap or controversy in knowledge this work points up, and how your project could address the problem.

Write a short statement of about 250 words about the kind of data that would help address your research and how you'd analyse it.

  • What are the main concepts or variables in your project? Include brief definitions.
  • Do any data sources exist on those concepts, if not, would you need to collect data?
  • _Of the analytical strategies you could apply to your data, which would be the most appro_priate and the most feasible?
Famous Eureka Moments

The falling apple has caused physicist Isaac Newton to formulate his laws of gravity. Archimedes took a bath and figured out how to calculate volume and density.

Anna Marie Roos, a historian of science, advises us to take these eureka moments with a grain of salt. However, she thinks they give insight into the creative process.

How 'Eureka' Moments in Science Happen

nationalgeographic.com

Narratives of scientific discovery get polished after the fact.

  • Newton was an old man when he told his friend, William Stukeley, that his thinking on the nature of gravity "was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood." The adage of "the apple fell on his head" came with time, but is not historically correct.
  • Archimedes did have a eureka moment while he lowered himself in the bath, but the part that he streaked across Syracuse is probably not true.

Eureka stories happen when decades of work get compressed into one inspirational moment.

The stories of Newton and Archimedes point to the need to quiet the mind and be contemplative. The falling apple and gravity, and overflowing bathtub and specific gravity show us that creativity needs space. Creative ideas often occur when scientists allow themselves to play.

Aristotle
the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing th

The "Do Something" Mindset (The Power of Practicing More)

medium.com

Taking responsibility

You have the power to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

You don’t win by sitting on the fence. You succeed by getting your hands dirty. There are no shortcuts to progress or mastery.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
The knowledge gap

It's the pursuit of more information, skills, experience, education or practical understanding of a subject before taking action.

We often hide behind knowledge acquisition and use learning as an excuse to delay the more important choice of actually doing something.

James Clear
"Passive learning is not a form of practice because although you gain new knowledge, you are not discovering how to apply that knowledge. Active practice, meanwhile, is one of the greatest forms of learning because the mistakes you make while practicing reveal important insights."
Choose to practice

You get better with practice. Active practice creates a skill. Overtime you improve and become a master of your craft.

But don't rush it. The desire to hurry up the process can impede your creativity. Give yourself permission to screw up in the process.

  1. Making impromptu decisions. Take the time to think about the pros and cons of your decision and weigh out the consequences.
  2. Lacking peace.  Take deep breaths in a quiet environment to evaluate the facts before you decide.
  3. Wallowing in the chaos of everyday life, or listening to too many other people. 
  4. Not considering priorities. Make a list of your important priorities. It will help you to make better choices.
  5. Deciding things without thought to our needs and wants.
  6. Neglecting your values. 
  7. Making decisions that are not right today, but we think they will be in the long run.
  8. Saying things to please others, or avoid saying something that will hurt.
  9. Forgetting how to say “no.” We think we need to be all things to all people.  Step back so that others can step forward.
  10. Procrastinating. Once you’ve made a decision, own it. Doing so is key to living with it.

How to overcome the 10 biggest mistakes in decision making

reliableplant.com

We all make bad decisions

While we may not like to admit this, we all are making a lot of bad decisions, be it our personal lives, careers or in our jobs. Here is what research says about making good decisions:

  • You need the right information, not more of it.
  • Feelings can be utilized
  • Know your strengths
  • Make a 'good enough' decision

This Is How To Make Good Decisions: 4 Secrets Backed By Research - Barking Up The Wrong Tree

bakadesuyo.com

The right information, not more

If there is too much information, we tend to make the wrong decision, and even if our decision is well-researched and considered right, we end up dissatisfied. 

The right information, even if less, provides clarity to make the right decision.

Gut feelings vs logic

A gut feeling, or an instinct, is often the right path, and points towards the right decision.

Ultra-rational, logical and unemotional decision-making does not guarantee that the decision taken will be the right one.

Factoring your strengths

A good decision depends on the strengths of the person making it.

If a person is an expert in a field, he can then make an informed decision, while trusting his gut feeling or instinct.

A good enough decision

“A good decision now is better than a perfect decision in two days” - James Waters

Losing valuable time for a perfect decision sometimes backfires, and a good enough decision can work just as well.

Self-Education: The Way Of The Future

Self-learning (also known as autodidacticism) is useful for certification (and fine-tuning) of your existing skills, to be able to learn continuously, and for the cultivation of your curiosity.

It’s essential to move out of the comfort zone and dive into the learning zone.

Self-education: how to leverage the end of credentialism - Ness Labs

nesslabs.com

The Learning Loop

Self-learning is about goals and the meaning you derive out of your work, though it can also work without a goal, only for self-satisfaction.

The Learning Loop is as follows:

  1. Identification of the goal, where we research about what are the requirements.
  2. Devising a learning strategy.
  3. Practice with consistency and resilience.
  4. Ensure you get adequate feedback about your progress.

Mind Framing or the personal growth framework uses the PARI method:

  1. Pact: A public commitment to learning something new.
  2. Act: Studying, practicing and experimenting.
  3. React: Sharing of progress and building of projects.
  4. Impact: Work towards something new using the acquired skill and move towards a new pact.

The world is already moving towards direct acquisition of skills and away from credentials. Companies are increasingly okay with self-learned, skilled employees that get the job done.

Many online resources like Coursera, edX.org, Udemy and others can open new doors in our lives and provide us with new skills if we can take the plunge.

Metacognition

It is the awareness and understanding of your own thought processes. Metacognition refers to the processes used in self-regulation, self-monitoring, and self-reflection. People who practice metacognition can think more critically, rationally, and productively.

Without this ability to distance ourselves from our experience, we would have little ability to moderate and direct our behaviors as they happen.

2 Fundamental Ways to Improve Your Metacognition Skills

medium.com

Most people lack insight about the weaknesses in their intellectual or emotional skills. They overestimate their abilities, which leads to over-confidence.

  • There are always things we know we know, and things we know we don't know - those provide the clues that can help you develop metacognition skills.
  • Check your assumptions. Intellectual humility can greatly improve your metacognition skill.

When you ask yourself better questions, you are forced to think deeply about your tasks and problems and the best way forward.

  • Before a task: Is this similar to a previous task? What do I want to accomplish? What should I do first?
  • During the task: Am I on the right track? What can I improve? Who can I ask for help?
  • After a task: What worked well? What could I have done better? Can I use this for other situations?
Paradigm Theory

A Paradigm theory is a general theory that provides a broad theoretical framework or "conceptual scheme." It offers underlying assumptions, key concepts, and methodology to scientists working in a particular field. It gives their research its general direction and goals.

Examples of paradigm theories include Copernicus' heliocentric astronomy (with the sun at the center), Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, germ theory in medicine, gene theory in biology.

What Is a Paradigm Shift?

thoughtco.com

A paradigm shift occurs when one paradigm theory is replaced by another:

  • Ptolemy's astronomy giving way to Copernican astronomy.
  • Newtonian physics (time and space are the same everywhere for everyone) replaced by Einsteinian physics. (time and space are relative to the observer's frame of reference.)
Thomas Kuhn and Why Paradigms Shift

The term "paradigm shift" was coined by the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996). He argued that science couldn't advance until most people working within a field agree upon a paradigm. Before the agreement, collaboration and teamwork are restricted.

Once a paradigm theory is established, those working within it can start doing normal science. But now and then, normal science reveals anomalies that can't be explained within the dominant paradigm. When the inexplicable results start piling up, it eventually leads to a "crisis."

Thomas Kuhn argues that reality cannot be described independently of the conceptual schemes through which we observe it. Paradigm theories explain our conceptual systems.

When a paradigm shift occurs, the theoretical opinions of scientists working in the field changes.

Kuhn's claim related to paradigm shifts is very controversial.

His critics argue that this "non-realist" approach leads to a sort of relativism, and concludes that scientific progress has nothing to do with getting closer to the truth. Kuhn states he still believes in scientific progress since later theories are usually better than earlier theories.

Gambler’s Fallacy

The odds are always fifty-fifty. But most of us anticipate better odds, or better luck, after a bad streak, as if now we are due for good luck.

This ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ assumes that probability as a whole has memory, and if the coin is flipped ten times and shows ‘heads’ in all ten, the odds are huge for it showing ‘tails’ in the 11th spin.

The Hard Truth Of Poker — And Life: You’re Never ‘Due’ For Good Cards

fivethirtyeight.com

Maria Konnikova, in her soon to be published book The Biggest Bluff, tells us that Poker is a real game, closer to life as opposed to the modern games which try to ‘game’ our brains’ and exploit its weaknesses.

Poker pushes us out of our comfort zones and illusions and puts us where life is, unpredictable, and always with fifty-fifty odds.

Seneca
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

Rethinking Fear

fs.blog

Being afraid won't keep us safe

We misunderstand the value of fear when we think that being constantly hypervigilant will keep us safe.

Being afraid all the time doesn’t keep danger away from us. Instead, we need to learn to recognize key signals that could predict risk, in order to actually feel calmer and safer.

When we walk around terrified all the time, we can’t pick out the signal from the noise.

If you’re constantly scared, you can’t correctly notice when there is something genuine to fear
. True fear is a momentary signal, not an ongoing state.

Anxiety (as opposed to fear) is always caused by uncertainty - the uncertainty of ultimately, by the forecasts we make, but in which we have little to no confidence.

Forecasts with high confidence free you to respond, adjust, feel sadness, accept, prepare, or to do whatever is needed. Accordingly, anxiety is reduced by improving your prediction capacity, thus increasing your certainty.

We’ll be in a better position when we'll be able to approach potential dangers with a calm mind, very vigilant to our internal signals but not anticipating every possible bad thing that could happen.

We don’t need to live in fear to stay safe. A better approach is to be aware of the risks we face, accept that some are unknown or unpredictable, and do all we can to be prepared for any serious or imminent dangers.

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