Reflecting on the Research Process


The art of conducting research can take many forms. It can be as simple as doing a quick Google search or as complex as a large experiment and data analysis. I’ve had several research experiences both for personal and professional reasons. 

A personal research experience I’ve had was deciding to do a PhD after getting my bachelor's degree. I started by investigating what a Ph.D. is and what the benefits are. I started by watching videos of seminars on YouTube and reading articles online. I found out that getting a Ph.D. leads to many opportunities that many others without one would not have. I wanted to learn more so I joined a mentorship program where I got to speak with current PhD students about their experiences. From this, I realized I needed some research experience before applying, so I decided to get a master's degree at the same university where I got my bachelor’s. I figured this would allow me to see if I like doing research and obtain a degree that can boost my career even without getting the Ph.D. So it was a win-win situation for me.

An academic research experience I’ve had was during my master’s degree for my final year thesis project. My research was on wildfires and ember transport, and the question I had was how wind turbulence affects the landing locations of flying embers. The process I took to answer this question consisted of reading lots of research papers, having discussions with my advisor of committee members, and doing numerical experiments. The entire process took me about a year and a half, during which I had to try several different software programs for my experiments, read papers, write a literature review, and have numerous meetings with my advisor where I developed a research plan for my major milestones.

The differences between personal and academic research are the amount of time required and the type of work done. With academic research, it typically takes longer to do the research (around 2-4 years), whereas personal research is much shorter (any range from 1 hour to several months or more). The type of work required is also different because in academic research there is actual work to be done (i.e. numerical experiments) whereas personal research typically will only require information to be found. There are similarities between the two such as finding and reading articles, creating a research plan, and speaking to other people. Both forms of research require information to be found and can use similar techniques to assess the trustworthiness of the information source. For academic research, the information source should come from a peer-reviewed journal or trusted organization. For personal research, the information should come from a trusted source such as a news organization or expert in the field. 

I enjoy doing personal and academic research. Each form helps me learn new things and expand my creativity. When learning something new, I am able to come up with new ideas that help me accomplish my goals in a more creative way because of my expanded knowledge.