Teleri (telerib) wrote,

On Research

Try It
Unless you know that you are so thin-skinned that any kind of feedback from strangers will reduce you to tears, really do consider entering a display or even a competition. Even - and especially - if you are a novice.

"Why should I compete? Everyone's stuff is better than mine!" First, let the judges decide that. Second, don't think of it as a competition. Think of it as a way to get A&S experts to give you feedback.

Seriously. Especially if you're nervous about approaching an expert and asking for advice. You don't have to approach anyone at a competition - you just put your exhibit on the table and judging forms with advice magically appear. How cool is that?

Some closing thoughts on doing research:

Researching is a skill and like any skill, it is learned through practice. No matter how many (many, many) times my mother exhorted me to "go easy on the brakes," when I was learning to drive I'd nearly put my passengers through the windshield at every stop sign. Even if I found the professor's lecture to be clear and the mathematics taught to be comprehensible, doing those first sets of homework problems was never trivial.

Physical or mental, skills need practice. You should always strive to make your best effort, but don't beat yourself up if your best effort isn't ideal in some way. We make mistakes, including in our research efforts. We learn from them and go on. Don't get paralyzed with the idea that you have to do everything 100% right, right from the start. We'd never learn anything if we applied that standard to other endeavors. You get in the car and you drive as best you can, and after enough hours behind the wheel, not only can you stop smoothly but you can parallel park, too.

Finally, this isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of research advice. It's a snapshot of my views on the process and its pitfalls today. And while I'm a much better researcher now than I was in 1999, I know I've still got my blind spots. I was within months of graduating when we realized that my research Process didn't actually test one of my claims! How do you miss that? But not only had I missed it, so had my advisor. As PhDs, we're research "experts," but we're also still learning.

Good luck to everyone on their research projects!
Tags: research, sca
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