If you’re a seasoned pro, we want you to feel right at home. If you’re new to research, great! We were too when we started. Learning how to research is not easy, but we think you can do it. So, welcome aboard!
Let the discoveries begin.
What is Research?
Research is a journey of discovery. It is a process—the ultimate goal of which is to understand ourselves and the world around us. By nature, we are inquisitive. We want to know how things work. We have questions that beg for answers. Whenever we look for answers we are doing research, though we may not think of it as such. In a sense, all of us are researchers, even if we don’t realize it!
Research is found in many fields, including science, engineering, history, anthropology, and humanities. Research is even found in our own homes, for example, when you’re trying to decide which TV to buy. No matter where it is found, research is a process involving questions, hypotheses, study, and experimentation, arriving eventually at a provable conclusion.
The Research Process
The core of research is the research process. That’s where all the cool stuff happens. The research process is made up of little building blocks that are put together in various ways as research progresses. These building blocks are grouped into meaningful units of research called cases. Cases start with a question and end with a conclusion. One of our goals is to make the research process, a.k.a. the journey of discovery, shareable. It’s our passion.
We’ve put together some of our thoughts about the research process to share with you. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed research nerd or just getting started, come and acquaint yourself with what we are trying to accomplish.
The Future of Research: A Manifesto
In 1945, the director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development wrote:
This situation has not changed a whole lot since then. Yes, we have computers and digital documents now, but we are still stuck in the same publishing paradigm. It can still take one or two years to get a research paper published! And then, we only publish our research conclusions. While conclusions are important, research is more than conclusions. Conclusions are only a small part of the story. Most of our research process is not being published and ends up lost.
Why is our sharing process still so limited? Why do we limit scholarly publication to catatonic research papers, when sharing the entire journey of discovery would be more beneficial for everyone? Research is a rich experience that should be shareable.
Traditionally, universities and other large research organizations have contributed the vast majority of research to the world. While these organizations will continue to play a large role in the research of the future, we believe that modern research and e-research systems will lower the entry barrier for quality research contributions, making it possible for more people to contribute to high-quality research projects.
While the research process across disciplines may seem very similar on the surface, differences in research communities, knowledge representations, and vocabularies arise under closer scrutiny. To be most effective, research software needs to be designed specifically for the field it is trying to support. However, we think that clarity, context, and collaboration are three elements that should be present in any modern research system.
Like tesserae in a mosaic, the building blocks of research should be visible and connected so others can understand how you put the pieces together.
Research should be clear and transparent. Every piece of information that contributed to the conclusion should be accessible. Research must clearly show not only what data was used, but how the data was used to answer the question. Otherwise, subsequent researchers will not know how the pieces were put together.
Clarity is important not only so that others can understand and verify your research conclusions, but because you don’t want to leave out your journey of discovery. This is the crux of research. Why are we leaving out the good stuff?
Individual tesserae have no meaning until they are put into context. Only as you look at the bigger picture do you see the true meaning of each piece.
Our world grows increasingly compartmentalized. We pursue our specialization as if with blinders, trying to push forward progress in our chosen field. Modern researchers and research systems need to take a more holistic approach. Systems thinkers need to show how research in one field relates to research in another. We need bridge builders that can see the big picture and make connections between bodies of knowledge, subjects, and individual lives.
Research is only correctly understood in its proper context. When that fuller context is considered, new avenues for research are opened and barriers are breached. Holes in the research, if any, are also revealed.
Clarity and context are prerequisites to true research collaboration.
Modern research and research systems are collaborative. The rewards of research collaboration outweigh any of the benefits of proprietary reward systems. Life is too short to be stuck in traditional research silos.
There is still so much to learn about ourselves and our world. Because good research naturally proliferates, there is no danger of running out of work to do. However, we will move faster and build better research as we work together.