Danielle - The Research to Do Before the Research Begins

 

Hello fellow STEM enthusiasts!

Last week I video blogged about some of the math techniques I’m learning in pursuit of my project. This week I want to address the process of doing research itself.

I believe that you can brainstorm a solution without researching it, but to maximize the caliber of the solution one must pre-research seriously. Before getting started I think it is important to know past solutions and why they failed or succeeded. Then, one can start brainstorming ways to circumvent those holes in those solutions, and/or add to their existing strengths.

As I wrote last week, we are mostly blessed to live in the internet/information age where so much information is available online in all conceivable forms (research papers, free courses, videos, and more).  If there is a “flip side” to this rich information resource it may be that there is almost too much information, but it means it is important to (1) develop an ability to filter for the highest quality and most relevant information, and (2) to be very organized in collecting this background research.

Such diligent research and information gathering lends itself to a more detailed (fully thought out), fail-proof solution. Also, the more one familiarizes themselves with a problem (with past research, statistics of available data, summary reports or review papers, etc.), the more impassioned one becomes to solve the problem!

How do you know when to stop your background research on prior solutions and when to start your project? When you have identified an interesting problem and an important gap in the current methods to solve that problem, but you think you have identified a method to solve it!

Once you start working on your novel solution it is also incredibly important to be organized. For example, keeping an organized account of your experiments and their outcomes in a scientist’s notebook is necessary so that the procedures are repeatable, well documented, and you can improve upon your previous mistakes.

While working on my original entry video, I learned that this “pre-work” before starting a new research problem is an incredibly important step: otherwise, you may be reinventing the wheel or trying techniques that did not work in the past because they were tried before – and you will certainly be wasting time in the long run. So, this “research before the research” is a perhaps surprising but crucial part of advancing science and solutions in engineering!

 

Until next time,

Danielle