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Eureka: How to do research
by Jay Gutman
2017-10-27 10:27:10
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The main mistake that most researchers do is to think about their careers rather than the issues they are studying. How many researchers have I seen constantly updating their resumés, constantly thinking about their place in the research community or constantly seeking approval for their past work. That is, most researchers spend most of their time seeking approval for their past work, rather than trying to tackle the next research problem.

rese01_400So how do you do research? Here are some dos and don'ts.

DON'T define your research problems first.

DO read as many generalist books about the field at hand first. Start with the generalist books, then move the more specialized ones, before you move to the more esoteric ones.

DO read primary sources. Funny how many religion professors never read the bible cover to cover or how many economics professors never read the five volumes of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

DO read secondary sources, if possible after reading the primary sources. They will give you an idea of the different interpretations of primary sources.

DO read tertiary sources. Such books often include a summary of the research that has been done and that is being done on the topic.

DON'T spend too much time writing your papers. Especially if you publish them in journals. No one will read them.

DO focus on why your research is important. Will it cure a disease? Will it enable machines to work better? Will it give tips to economic planners? Will it enable better understanding between communities? Or are you simply repeating what has been said hundreds of times?

DO throw your resumé away. If you do useful research people will notice you.

DO keep in mind that most people are too busy selling their past accomplishments to care what other people are doing. And will try put you in the closet if your past accomplishments cast shadows on theirs. Try to work with people with similar or better accomplishments.

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