Learning How To Research

The most valuable tool, I think, that I could leave my children is learning through research.  It is not always that easy but learning and research do go hand in hand.  Many people figure that when they are done school that is it.  Most of the time that should be just the beginning as not much really useful information was gathered there. 

For me, one of the best ways to research a subject is through periodicals – magazines. 

Nowadays, this translates into online newsletters but it is the same idea.  One of the main reasons a magazine or periodical is good for research on a subject or helping to learn to research is that they are generally geared to neophytes or people newer to the subject.  For example, quite a number of years ago I started to learn photography.  I wanted to learn everything that I could and started accumulating books but the most useful thing that I aquired was a subscription to a photo magazine.  Most of the magazines that I found on the shelf were covering basics. I realized after a while that they were on a 18 month to 2 year cycle.  They would cover a lot of basics of photography – the articles were simple, informative and would give one lots of material to practice with.  Once they cycled through these basics they would start over again.  I have subscibed to other magazines and although not as long with some, they appeared to be similar – a one to two year cycle of the basics.

Learning how to research takes a bit of practice but this was a great way to start. Take what you learn from these periodicals or newsletters and go practice to see if it works for you.  As I learned more I bought books in the areas that I wanted more detail. I did not always read them cover to cover but looked for specifics of what I wanted to learn and apply. 

For me the ability to judge what was important came with a lot of practise – taking what I learned and applying it.  The more I did this the better my judgement got as to what was important. 

The other key was making sure that I understood the terminology.  This was vital.  Almost any ‘niche’ or subject has its own nomenclature and if you don’t know the terms there is no way to understand the material around it.  I’ve had people tell me that ‘you’ll get it from the context’ – believe me please, this is chancy at best.  It is so easy these days to get the proper definitions – there are so many dictionaries online – it takes seconds.  I’m old school and like my dictionaries but often if you are researching in a specialized subject there are terms and phrases that will not be in a conventional dictionary.  I made sure that I had specialized photo dictionaries about as well. 

These days the resources online are extensive.  But make sure that you evaluate the material. 

I would love to see researched based learning part of school systems but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. Best to keep your kids at home and teach them how to read then if you are teaching them how to research they will be able to absorb and evaluate anything. 

Learn to research properly and you can tackle anything.

Posted by Cyril O in blog, 0 comments

What is research?

Or What is the importance of good research?

It is has been said many times that the internet is both good and bad. I have been using the internet for research for probably about 16 – 17 years. Some things that were easy to find even 5-6 years ago are much more difficult to find now. I remember researching about medical glue for suturing. Originally, I did this about 2003. I was looking around recently for the articles that I had read back then and couldn’t find them. What I did find was a lot of articles with incomplete information. To me this is just shoddy research and not really having any real interest in what you are researching.

Many of the articles that I find on the internet are written for the purpose of getting a high ranking for one’s website and not actually providing useful information. There are a lot of good websites out there that have good useful information. If I want to find a recipe – simple or complex – a few key strokes and I’m there.

I see many articles and pages on the internet that have obviously come from the same source. The data is almost exactly the same. This is fine if it is correct. It used to be that research papers would have a bibliography. Maybe I should start doing this more for my researched articles. But the problem that often all I find is 3rd and 4th generation research. Even if I can trace it back a couple of layers I still don’t find the ‘source’.

In the above example of the glue that was used for suturing: There are three or four types of commercial grade cyanoacrylates – that’s the base of super glue. One particular type being less toxic than the rest is the one used for suturing. Most articles that come up on a search like this claim that any of them are suitable. I suppose used in moderation any could be considered medical grade but the point here is that any original research done on this has been buried.

When I study or research a subject I’m mainly concerned with my ability to apply. For example, when I started learning photography, I read hundreds of magazines and books. I still have boxes of them. But more importantly, I would take each thing that I read and go out and try it. I would make it work for me – I would try out each thing I studied/learned. A lot of what I was learning was from people that had actually done what I was studying about. I have friends that would get much more into the technical aspects of types of film and cameras. But either way we would all be studying from the same source – someone having actually done what we were trying to do.

I took a course on photography once – I looked around for some time to find a course being taught by a professional photographer. I wanted to learn from someone who was actually getting paid to produce a product. Not someone who was giving me the data second or third hand. It was one of the best courses that I had ever done on anything.

So, I do think that research is an absolutely essential part of learning. There is no reason to make the same mistakes over and over again of the last few millenia. If you take on any new venture learn something about it first. Do not by any means try to learn all about it before you start. Learn a few of the basics, go do something and then go learn some more. Then do some more. The more understanding that you have of the activity whether it be a sport, profession, trade, or just a hobby, the more fun you will have and the more effective you will be.

The key though is sifting through the meaningless information and actually finding useful the useful stuff. That comes with some practice.

Posted by Cyril O in blog, 0 comments