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Mindset of a researcher

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04th-Feb-2018       
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Dr. P R Datta and Mark T. Jones :
"Research is what I am doing, when I do not know what I am doing"
Wernher von Braun (1912 - 1977)
With Bangladesh having recently been ranked as tenth in the world for GDP growth it is clear that the country is on an upward trajectory. Similarly, other indices are positive, that said, there is one anomaly, and that is in respect of academic research. Currently when benchmarked against some of its international competitors Bangladeshi academics are underperforming. Currently the country ranks sixty first in respect of research output in the Scimago Journal & Country Ranking (www.scimagojr.com/ countryrank.php). If the country is to capitalise on its opportunities it is vital that it raises its game in respect of research, and ensure that academics papers are submitted for consideration for publication in reputable international academic journals. There is no room for complacency. Venerable academic institutions must not be allowed to rest on their laurels. What follows is some guidance to help researchers develop the right mindset, one that is determined and focused. Bangladesh needs academics who are ambitious and thorough. For the country to thrive it is essential that it makes the most of home grown talent. Bangladesh should be aspiring to produce the finest researchers not just in Asia, but the World.
Researchers are the truth seekers. They investigate, analyse and interpret a phenomenon or event. They do the test to bring the evidence. They do not speculate and there is no room for speculation for real researchers. The quest for proof is an eternal one for them. Whilst some researchers will lose themselves in speculation, those with method will always set to the task with a view to seeking out and testing evidence. Any possible evidence needs to be tested, documented, verified and where possible corroborated. Rogue results, often caused by human error, tend to throw entire findings, hence the importance of repeat tests, multiple observations, random sampling and benchmarking.
A real researcher does not favour any specific assumption, theory or model. They are without any patronage, prejudice, any institutional or societal pressure, or even bias and personal ego in their observation, record keeping, analysing and interpreting the research outcome to shape their research evidence. All researchers must endeavour to be as detached and as objective as is humanly possible and that should be their research mantra and responsibility. The actuality should be their chief focus to justify their research. Whilst conjecture has its place, it is important to strive to ensure that research recreates real life situations, or is as realistic as possible. Such an approach helps minimise divergence, and thus makes findings all the more pertinent.
What is research? Is it merely an accumulation of data? Not really. It is something beyond that. Research is a continuous process of reviewing and synthesising current literature, identifying gaps, observation of phenomenon, analysing and interpreting collected data, making new findings with old evidence. This is a gradational process. Justification and appraisal are essential at every stage of this gradational process to ensure that the process is robust, credible, authentic, valid and reliable.
The above discussion begsthe question: What constitutes a research mindset? It is important that we all have that mindset as a researcher before we can carry out some meaningful research which will have real impact on society. The main beneficiaries of the research outcome should be the society at large. We have identified seven key mindset elements of a researcher. These are vital to carry out successful research.
Seven key mindset elements of a researcher
1. Thinking About Your Thinking?- Many researchers find that they muse on why they think and cogitate in the way that they do. They are eager to know what type of thinker that they are. Not everyone processes information in the same way. It pays to know whether a person is an introvert or an extrovert, a risk-taker or risk-averse, analytical or intuitive.
2. Innate Curiosity: - In life curiosity can lead one up a few blind alleys and also into places of learning and enlightenment. An effective researcher benefits enormously by asking the Five Ws - what, why, how, who and when.
3. Ability to Discern: - Discernment is a deciding factor that comes about with experience and thanks to a constant desire to test and seek out meaningful knowledge. Wanting to find a deeper understanding involves a degree of searching that over time allows a person to sort out the wheat from the chaff so to speak. It often leads a person to question and challenge firmly held beliefs and values, not out of any sense of superiority, but out of a desire to appreciate and comprehend ideas and core beliefs.  
4. Degreeof Scepticism: In research it pays not to merely accept things at face value. Reasoned doubt is healthy, andcan help a researcher to strive to validate, replicate, repeat and test. Being sceptical does not mean being cynical, it is an approach that appreciates that things are not always what they might at first seem. Unexpected findings require further investigation, just as expected findings do. If a result is as expected, it pays to check and to doubt the validity or process. Such scepticism helps iron out doubts and in the end, can help a person or persons become more thorough and thus potentially more accurate.
5. Desire to break new ground or add to our body of knowledge: - There are those who follow the tried and tested methods, and there are those who strive to discover new approaches. It takes courage to think afresh, and often certain institutions and organisations actively discourage innovative thinking. A determined researcher appreciates the fact that sticking with the old ways is likely to limit the number of outcomes. New approaches will often result in disappointments, but can also be the route to new discoveries.
6. Determination:- Setbacks and failures are all part of research. Often the most interesting and meaningful research findings come from experiments that appeared to have gone awry. Whether a researcher is of a dogmatic or pragmatic disposition they need to have the conviction that enables them to press on, even when others have little faith. Research takes time, sometimes years, or even decades. The journey is as valuable as the destination. With resolve things become possible.
7. Focus:- In research it is easy to become side tracked. Distraction aplenty exists, and there are those whose concentration and patience fail them. Clear aims and objectives are of paramount importance. Research requires a central focus, one that can be articulated to others, whilst being at the forefront of the mind of the person engaged in the research. If research is allowed to become nebulous there is every likelihood that any findings will lack structure and be of limited value.
A successful researcher proactively develops a research project, establishes objectives, develops hypotheses, designs experiments, tests ideas, interprets results without waiting for someone's instructions or guidance. Good researchers develop their own navigation tools and habits. Habits are vital as they are the basis of someone`s success, but habits should be carefully selected and practiced, otherwise they will be the basis for disappointment and failure. Based on our own personal experience for the past two decade and interaction with many researchers we have identified eight habits of a good researcher.
Eight habits of a good researcher
1. Be unreasonably aspirational - Be ambitious, and by so doing there is a chance that expectations are not only met but exceeded. The same could be said of having lowly goals, but then the outcome will be modest and of limited value. Aim high and encourage others to do the same.
2. Set a research and writing goal from the start - It helps to formulate objectives. Be clear and concise. Those who only have vague objectives and notions are less likely to achieve anything of meaningful value.
3. Read, read and read again - To become well rounded it is important to read research papers from places as diverse as Australasia to Scandinavia. Be open to new ideas and be willing to engage and learn.
4. Prioritization - Order tasks and set to them with method.
5. Identify the problems:  It is sometimes said that when there are no problems there is no research. Challenges help a person to think creatively, and approach a situation from a different angle or perspective. Problems often lead to innovation, they certainly can spur collaboration and should always result in deliberation.
6. Set constructive and quantifiable questions - The spirit of engagement is invariably reflected in the way in which questions are formulated and framed. Being constructive rather than destructive helps moves matters forward in a positive and purposeful manner.
7. Record keeping and note taking - It is imperative that a researcher is meticulous with regard to record keeping. Observe, verify and record. It is advisable to annotate with care, and whenever possible keep duplicate copies of findings and records. In this age of Information Technology it is essential to back up data and keep a paper trail in respect of communications. Store material with care and be mindful of legislation in respect of Data Protection. Edit work with precision and be ever vigilant in respect of plagiarism.
8. Acquire new skills and build levels of confidence - A true researcher is always looking to learn anew. Have faith, conviction and a desire to grow.
Sentient human beings are apt to day dream, in so doing give thought to hopes and fears. Research is often beset with setbacks and disappointments, and yet for all these it presents new opportunities to think and see anew. It is important to keep faith with scholarly ideals, and venture forth with confidence. Researchers embark upon their own odyssey and thus would do well to remember these words from the poem Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.".
Dr. P R Datta FCIM, FCMI is Executive Chair, Academy of Business & Retail Management, UK, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Business and Retail Management Research, a SCOPUS indexed and SCIMAGO Ranked Journal. Mark T. Jones BA (Hons), FABRM is Consultant Futurist and Editor-in-Chief - International Journal of Higher Education Managemen

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