Sunday, September 26, 2010

How research happens?

(This is something which is evolving. You may come periodically to check for updates. I may not be clear at many places. If you are reading, you are requested only to use it as inputs to your own thought process and decision process. Please do'nt believe on it blindly without making your own judgement.)

Fundamentally, research is nothing but asking questions about whatever you decide to research on, and finding out the answers. It is possible that one can do research about whatever problems one faces on daily basis, about problems which have been documented by researchers.

Most common practice followed by research students (pursuing Ph.D) is to study thoroughly the research paper published by other researchers. Usually this should be done with no faith in anyone. Once you doubt the authors, you study the papers critically. You may end up in many questions. It is good idea to write all of them down, prioritize them. Pick few of these questions, and start pursuing for the answers to them. One need not study research papers for doing research, though it is good idea to be aware of what others are doing. This helps in avoiding mistake and sometime give correct directions to the pursuit of knwoledge. In general, the research can be done by anyone after observing anything of his/her interest.

Whatever you observe, you can ask the following type of questions about it.

- What is it? (the characterization)
- Why is it (happening, existing)? (the reason)
- How is it (happening, formed) ? (the method)
- If you do (what you ever you have as an idea?), what is going to happen? (the prediction)
- If you want something at the end of your pursuit, what should be done as next step? (the synthesis)

- One can also make "the comparison", which is derived after "the characterization" of individual components being compared.

Fundamentally, the research is done as iterative refinement of understanding.

Problem -> Observe what ever you can related to problem -> You make progress by either asking more questions, or deciding on where you must observe next.

This procedure keeps on happening repetitively, until you endup with a solvable sub-problem which need to solved first or you are in a position to form a hypothesis (model) based on your observations. In the next step, you usually verify your hypothesis.

You also keep on solving the identified fundamental problems as separate research thread to identify and solve the sub-problems one after another. Once sufficient sub-problems are resolved, the solution to main problem will emerge.

What are the pre-requisite for doing research?

- One should not waste time. Observing or analysing once daily life is important to find how to modify the lifestyle, to devote maximum time to your research work. It is not only important to do the research work but also to do it as fast as possible.

- When you are not happy with the way your life is progressing, analysing (observing) and finding what methodical improvements are needed, should be done. Usually it is good idea, to form a list of suggestions (rules) and keep on modifying them after each such instance of analysis.

- When doing a work - either thinking, or mentally revising something for identifying clues for forming hypothesis, identifying sub-problems, next observation space, a focus is needed. Diversion due to interruptions are not desirable. Typical diversions happen due to one of our five sensory organs (touch, smell, vision, sound, taste). Another major interrupt happens when we have urge to speak. Usually, when you are speaking you cannot do mental revision and observation session. So avoid speaking when doing your research work.

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