Thursday, July 05, 2007


Where do ideas come from? I think for most people the generation of ideas isn't that much of a problem, but to determine which ones are good and worth pursuing might often be a case of hit and miss.

Research is a process, as everyone knows, and while there is the practical aspect of having theories to generate hypotheses to be tested in experiments, so that the theory can be modified/discarded/supported to generate new hypotheses etc. etc., the real process is in the development of thinking. And while the research process is a circle, it is no match to the spinning going on in the researchers' heads.

What usually happens is that when you start a project, you start writing down ideas, taking notes and making scetches. Which usually, when you read them in about a year in the project, sound naive, childish and simply ignorant. You've learned from reading other people's work, you've found that someone else has already answered some of your questions, or that some of the questions you had, might not be worth asking in the first place.

But sometimes, after a couple of more years, with some more spinning and hopefully also more understanding, the first ideas might start look good again. Perhaps the initial question had been forgotten in the course of things? Perhaps the notes DO have some relevance, perhaps the ideas written by a naive but enthusiastic mind reflect a clearer vision, if less profound understanding than the sometimes desperate blurbs written in the middle of the process, in an attempt to find any clarity among the clouds of ideas, articles and research results?

I have just yesterday finalised the title of my thesis. Confirming the title is a part of the official process of appointing examiners etc., in other words another step on the bureaucratic path towards the Senate House and graduation... The funny thing is, the title is the same as the title of my very first conference presentation I gave as a graduate student.

Currently a colleague of mine is writing a research proposal, and she laughed how her initial ideas from three years back now are finding their way to the proposal as keywords, fragments of the title etc.

What goes around, comes around, eh?

(Pic: electro-static merry-go-round invented by Benjamin Franklin.

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