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Planning Research

Planning Research: A Concise Guide for the Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences

John C. Gordon
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 112
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  • Book Info
    Planning Research
    Book Description:

    This concise yet comprehensive guide describes in detail a successful method for planning and writing about proposed research and management projects. Intended for use by a wide variety of individuals in life sciences, environmental sciences, and management, the volume offers indispensable, step-by-step advice for any student or professional undertaking a research project.John C. Gordon focuses first on the importance of thinking carefully and writing down a research plan, describing each component of such a plan and explaining why it is important. In subsequent chapters he shows how to describe research or management problems, how to write clear objectives, the importance of the hypothesis, how to deal with schedules and budgets, how to communicate completed plans, and how to prepare grant applications. Gordon concludes with an insightful chapter on the social significance of scientific research.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13506-0
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ONE The Importance of Written Plans
    (pp. 1-9)

    In the current science environment, money and permission to do a specific piece of research depend absolutely on the quality of a written document explaining what research is to be done and why. This is true regardless of the discipline, location, or size of a scientific project. It has been fashionable to debate whether written plans for research are simply bureaucratic impediments to real science. For some exceptional individuals this may be true. For most, however, two compelling reasons for doing written plans remain. First, the system requires them, and, more important, thinking, especially thinking before doing, is the key...

  5. TWO Scientific Method
    (pp. 10-19)

    Scientific research can be classified as basic or applied, natural or social science, or in other ways, but several axioms or assumptions are at the base of all science. The most universal of these are observation, experiment, measurement, logic, order, honesty, proof, and repeatability. These classifications are most frequently applied in the testing of mechanistic (specifying cause, pathway, and effect) hypotheses in ways that exclude certain interpretations of the results of the tests. Understanding the steps in the cycle of research activities (the scientific method), as well as understanding the axioms, is the first step in preparing good research plans....

  6. THREE Useful Views of Science
    (pp. 20-31)

    Conducting scientific research is a learned skill. Certain principles apply across all kinds of research, and their observance, or lack thereof, determines research quality. Philosophers and historians of science have argued about these principles for centuries, but a number of their ideas apply particularly well to written plans. Kenneth Boulding, Karl Popper, and Thomas Kuhn had diverse views of science, but a practical and useful whole can be extracted from their writings. Science is an intrinsic human activity, subject to all human failings, but, because of its intrinsic nature, it is accessible to all humans. Normal science often operates within...

  7. FOUR Stating Problems and Objectives Clearly
    (pp. 32-43)

    The most important steps in planning research are setting research priorities, defining the problem research will address, and writing clear objectives. Problems can be defined as gaps in knowledge or in terms of choices decision-makers must make. A gap in knowledge is most often identified from the literature or a new observation. The decision-maker method is most often used in applied research that aims to help people outside science. The latter method has five important components that, when fully described, constitute a complete problem statement. Those are: the decision-maker, his or her objective, alternative paths to achieve the objective, a...

  8. FIVE Creating Hypotheses and Models
    (pp. 44-52)

    Most researchers agree that the most creative part of the scientific process is hypothesis formation. Mechanistic hypotheses make predictions that can be tested and that contain an explanation of why the predicted event is expected. Good hypotheses are “risky predictions,” in Popper’s term. Often, hypotheses are models that express the most important attributes of a given problem. Models can take many forms, and they can help the research planner in several ways, including the conceptualizing of experiments, organizing and tracking data, and communicating with reviewers. Models that are predominantly analytic or simulative in structure can be used to form and...

  9. SIX Designing Experiments
    (pp. 53-67)

    Designing experiments is both art and science. Once a hypothesis is formed, there usually exist many possible tests. Choosing an approach that fulfills the requirement of a rigorous test and at the same time is ethically sound and economical in time and materials is difficult. The actual description of an experiment as it is meant to be carried out thus contains elements of the sublime (the intellectual quality of the test) and the worldly (how much it will cost, how long it will take, and who will do it). Choosing the right methods and venue to best test the hypothesis...

  10. SEVEN Communicating Study Plans
    (pp. 68-80)

    If there is a required skill that cuts across all professions, including research, it is the ability to communicate effectively. No matter how important a researcher’s hypotheses are, they will have no effect on science and the world if no one else understands them. “We are all prisoners in our own skin,” as the saying has it. Unless our ideas escape that prison in intelligible form, no useful research is done and no problems are solved.

    Almost every written research plan that is important enough to draw notice is discussed in person as well as read. Thus, most research planners...

  11. EIGHT Understanding the Role of Science
    (pp. 81-90)

    Science and society interact in important ways. Good practice in environmental professions is based on accepted science. Publics at large depend on science as a basis for law and regulation, and expect science to provide positive benefits across a huge range of human activities. Most basic science is supported directly by public funds, and all science is supported either directly by tax revenues or by consumer expenditures. In return, science is accountable to legislatures, corporations, and charitable foundations. The complex relationship between science and society is not always a comfortable one. To plan research effectively, it is necessary to consider...

    (pp. 91-94)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 95-102)