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Social Sci LibreTexts

2: Thinking Like a Researcher

  • Page ID
    26217
  • Conducting good research requires first retraining your brain to think like a researcher. This requires visualizing the abstract from actual observations, mentally “connecting the dots” to identify hidden concepts and patterns, and synthesizing those patterns into generalizable laws and theories that apply to other contexts beyond the domain of the initial observations. Research involves constantly moving back and forth from an empirical plane where observations are conducted to a theoretical plane where these observations are abstracted into generalizable laws and theories. This is a skill that takes many years to develop, is not something that is taught in graduate or doctoral programs or acquired in industry training, and is by far the biggest deficit amongst Ph.D. students. Some of the mental abstractions needed to think like a researcher include unit of analysis, constructs, hypotheses, operationalization, theories, models, induction, deduction, and so forth, which we will examine in this chapter.