Saturday, April 3, 2010

How to get new research ideas from Scientific literature ???

Coming up with an idea for original research project will probably be the most challenging part of a research job. Knowing how to get new ideas for a research project is very important. Till date, scientific literature (Articles, Reviews, Monographs, etc) is the only major resource to get ideas, but how to extract a new idea from it, is again a question. Nowadays one can find many blogs and forums, where in many tips, suggestions and guidelines have been told by experts. For example, following is an interesting blog written by a fellow teacher, who made a thorough discussion on the same topic. He has given some following guidelines on how to read a research article to extract new ideas from it.
  1. What did the authors conclude?
  2. What alternate conceptual models, explanations, or hypotheses did the authors consider? Why did they prefer the explanation in their conclusion?
  3. What methods did they use to approach the problem?
  4. What's the context? How does this work fit with other work that's been done and questions being asked? Why does anyone care about this research?
Getting ideas for future work:
  1. Do you accept the author's conclusions? If not, are there other approaches that could allow you to test their conclusion?
  2. Does this research suggest new ways to interpret a different problem? (Could something like this model explain other areas? Other periods of time? Other types of processes?).
  3. Are there other problems that could be studied using the same methods? (And what equipment or expertise is necessary to use these methods?).
One can see many worth reading views and comments below this blog by many experts, where in lot much has been discussed on this topic. Among them following comment drawn my attention, in which the commenter has put a very important word, "Skeptical".
Of course. My experience with graduate students learning how to read the scientific literature is that they do a perfectly fine job of understanding what the authors are saying, but tend to forget that their job is to be skeptical about it.
Yes, it is very true that if we keep on praising other's work or just understand what they did in a particular research article, we will never extract new ideas from it. Therefore, it is very important to read skeptically and questioning everything. Most of the time it is the negative results in a research article which give us the way to generate new ideas. What new thing can you develop from highly focused good results?? Good results are focused only to convince the reviewer of a particular journal to make him agree to accept the work for publication.

Well the bottom line is, after reading 10-15 papers of a particular area of research, you will begin to see that there are gaps in our knowledge that need to be filled, and that is where you get ideas for new research projects.

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