Planning research projects requires creativity and sharp analytical skills.
Any research planning uses the same four steps:
Orienting yourself for research planning requires you to stop thinking like a student, which treats knowledge as something created by other people.
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.
The 'literature review' section in academic research demonstrated that researchers have thoroughly and systematically reviewed relevant findings of previous studies on the topic.
Two basic rhetorical positions can help you frame the novelty-and-importance argument in academic research.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Narratives of scientific discovery get polished after the fact.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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-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-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:
Mind Framing or the personal growth framework uses the PARI method:
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.
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.
Most people lack insight about the weaknesses in their intellectual or emotional skills. They overestimate their abilities, which leads to over-confidence.
When you ask yourself better questions, you are forced to think deeply about your tasks and problems and the best way forward.
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.
A paradigm shift occurs when one paradigm theory is replaced by another:
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.
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.
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.
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.