pickingaresearchproblem - NEJM - Picking a Research Problem...

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Picking a Research Problem -- The Critical Decision There is probably no question that plagues investigators, especially young investigators, more than how to pick a research project. This decision is not one that must be faced only once in a lifetime; rather, it must be continually revisited. Although it is easy to assume that success in research is just the difference between good and bad luck (and indeed there is a certain amount of luck in research), most highly regarded investigators will have many successful research experiences during their careers. For the new investigator and junior faculty member just starting his or her career, the decision about a research project is further complicated by many other questions. How should one weigh high-risk, high-interest projects against lower-risk projects of lower interest? How similar or different should the project be from work done during one's postdoctoral fellowship? Can one remain in the same institution as one's postdoctoral mentor and still make an impact, and if so, how is this best achieved? How many different projects should an investigator attempt to be involved in or undertake? How important is complete independence? When is collaboration good, and with whom? Should the M.D. investigator do anything differently from the Ph.D. investigator in picking a research project? What do you do when you are faced with some aspect of a project for which you are not technically prepared? How should one balance projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) against projects without such funding? In contrast to the rich scientific base that underlies the research itself, little has been written to help the investigator facing these challenges 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 . Clearly the answers to these questions depend on the exact circumstances, background, expertise, and desires of the individual investigator, but every investigator should have a strategy for picking a research problem that optimizes the chances of success. The first step in picking a research project is to understand what makes research "good." Indeed, considering the extremely competitive nature of research funding and the rigorous review process used by top academic institutions for promotion, this question should be more accurately phrased, "What makes a research project outstanding?" Certainly, there are fundamental characteristics that everyone would agree are important. The study should be well performed and use appropriate and up-to-date forms of technology. The data should be carefully analyzed and accurately reported. For studies involving animals and humans, ethical considerations must be dealt with appropriately. But is HOME | SEARCH | CURRENT ISSUE | PAST ISSUES | COLLECTIONS | HELP Administration for Institution: SWETS BLACKWELL INC | Sign Out | Manage Account | FAQ Previous Volume 330:1530-1533 May 26, 1994 Number 21 Next Add to Personal Archive
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This note was uploaded on 01/27/2012 for the course VMS 576 taught by Professor Johngay during the Spring '12 term at Washington State University .

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pickingaresearchproblem - NEJM - Picking a Research Problem...

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