TOP > Message > Researcher's perspective and creativity

2007.06.18
It happens rather often --- a lab member comes to me saying "I got the data, but it's not good." I usually respond to such a comment saying nonchalantly "that's good," and mean it.

When a researcher says "the data is not good," it only means that the data is different from what was expected, and he/she is showing his/her unpreparedness for data other than expected.

It is said many a time that research would be a fairly tedious undertaking if every data obtained was as one expected. It is because of the unexpected unfolding of things that an unanticipated development sometimes follows. When the data obtained was not as you had expected or hoped, as in when the result was negative while you expected positive, you should think of it as a great opportunity for a possible new development.

It takes mental strength to turn the unexpected and seemingly less than ideal outcome into one's advantage. That's what the research is all about: when unable to obtain expected data, you'll try to figure out what's next and move on. And when you're trying to figure out your next move, it's important that you can think in as many different ways as possible, taking all that you know into consideration. This is where your ability to think logically plays an important role.

Knowledge of things other than what you specialize in, as I have written in the column previously, can also contribute to enhancing your logical thinking. Curiosity is important: a mug without a handle seen through the show window of a shop may turn out to be a mug with a handle once you go into the shop and observe it from a different angle.

Having diversified knowledge enables you to see things from varied angles, leading to a fresh development of thoughts. An ability to think in a multilateral fashion, which is vital to moving forward with research, is synonymous with the ability to formulate --- which is augmented by latitude in thinking --- backed up with healthy curiosity to link two apparently unrelated elements and turn it into a hypothesis.

The power of logical thinking plays an important role throughout the research endeavor, including the time when you submit your paper and receive critiques by the reviewers. Many people get dejected when they receive critiques, but it need not be so. You can also challenge the reviewers with arguments that are logically laid out. Have the courage to think from diversified angles, and it is possible, sometimes, to argue with the reviewers until they can see the handle of a mug that they did not see earlier. The reviewers' comments are not criticisms to you personally. They are, rather, an opportunity for you to develop yourself.

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