Advice for the Aspiring Researcher

Below is from an exchange I had with an aspiring researcher. Right after my daughter was born she reached out to me for an informational interview. With little sleep and an unpredictable schedule, I opted to answer a few questions via email instead.

What are the elements that you believe make up a good research design?

  • Clear objectives

  • Working hypothesis

  • An approach that includes, ideally, a balance of both qual & quant methods

  • A very specific target and a sample size that is big enough to show trends/patterns, but not so big that it is unmanageable for your time/efforts

What are the most important skills that you believe an aspiring researcher would need to have an order to be successful in this field?

  • Creativity: ability to make something out of nothing (eg. designing a test with little to no budget or with a fast turnaround)

  • People skills: the ability to approach and build a rapport with anyone/anyone

  • Listening skills: a great researcher is VERY comfortable with silence

  • Discernment: know when a source is reputable & valuable or when you’re being led down a rabbit hole

What actions do you suggest an aspiring researcher take to get started in this field?

  • Practice makes perfect — you’ll learn a lot just diving in and doing some research! — ask more senior team members to review your discussion guides and give feedback or offer to shadow them & take notes

  • Observational skills — practice observing your surroundings & drawing out insights. Every time you think “I wonder why people…” start looking into it. See if there’s already research done that you can read and learn from, or come up with a hypothesis and find ways to test it in every day life. Get curious and poll your friends… that sort of thing. Curiosity is your best friend.