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How to do research
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  1. How to do research Dan Simon Cleveland State University October 2003

  2. The key is balance • You can study too much, or not enough • Gain / bandwidth can be too high, or too low

  3. Solve the right problem • Find a problem that is interesting and challenging • Find a problem that is solvable • Balance challenge with solvability • Experience helps with balance

  4. Solve the right problem in the right way • Look for problem-driven solutions, not solution-driven problems

  5. Likely Payoff Difficulty Achievability and Payoff • Attack a problem that you can solve • Attack a problem that has a payoff

  6. Collect a repertoire of tools • Use the best tool to solve the problem • Use available resources • Seminars • Books / Journals • Colleagues • Internet • Library

  7. Generalize and specialize • Balance breadth and depth • A generalist knows nothing about everything • A specialist knows everything about nothing Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995)Nobel Prize, 1983A new topic every seven years

  8. Have a plan of attack • Follow your blueprint • Be flexible enough to deviate from your blueprint

  9. Isaac Newton 1642 - 1727 Simplify / complicate your work • Simplify your work • Solve your problem one step at a time • Apply the theory to a simple problem • Generalize the theory • F = ma • Eastern mysiticism andZadeh’s fuzzy set theory

  10. Example However, Therefore, Furthermore, Finally,

  11. Work! • A necessary and sufficient condition • Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration Thomas Edison 1847-1931

  12. Persist • Sometimes months of workpays off in a single day • Know when to change your approach  = 3.14159265358979323846264338327…

  13. Don’t be afraid to fail • “I have not failed. I have merely found 10,000 ways that did not work.” • Admit your mistakes (so you can learn from them) • Petroski, To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design

  14. Faith and doubt • Believe that your ideas will eventually work • Healthy skepticism – don’t take someone else’s word for it, convince yourself

  15. Communicate • Read and write • Speak • Write and speak with authority

  16. Progress is cumulative • Build on others’ work • Allow others to build on your work Isaac Newton 1642 – 1727 John Donne 1572-1631

  17. Independence / cooperation • Researchers need to be able to work independently • Researchers need to be able to work as part of a team

  18. Find balance in your life • Relationships, spirituality, hobbies, rest • Sabbath James Watson 1928 -

  19. Conclusion • It all boils down to balance

  20. References • http://academic.csuohio.edu/simond/courses • C. Loehle, A guide to increased creativity in research – inspiration or perspiration? BioScience 40(2), pp.123-129, February 1990 • D. Bernstein, A student’s guide to research, IEEE Control Systems, pp. 102-108, February 1999 • R. Hamming, You and your research, IEEE Potentials, pp.37-40, October 1993 • V. Li, Hints on writing technical papers and making presentations, IEEE Transactions on Education 42(2), pp.134-137, May 1999