How to do a research.
In my opinion, research is a process to find explanations. Some people believe that the purpose of research is the ability to predict. I think the ability to predict is only one evidence among many that the explanations are correct. The ability to predict is certainly a useful thing. But it is not the final goal of a research. An intermediate goal perhaps, but not the final goal.
Now what do I mean when I say “explanation”? Some people would say that as long as you have some equations that describe the empirical data quite well (plus it has the ability to predict) then you already achieved your goal. Well, I do agree with the notion that a set of equations which can explain the empirical data quite well is very important. But having that set of equations is NOT enough.
How about qualitative explanations? Here, I also agree that having a set of qualitative explanations is very important. But again, it is NOT enough. The final goal – I think – is to have a complete integrated explanations which contain a set of deep explanations as well as how to validate them, and the results of the validation.
I have proposed a phrase “deep explanations” as opposed to “explanations”. Also I proposed that this deep explanations must be accompanied by a method to validate them, AND the results of the validation which is a proof that the explanations are correct.
In effect, I have maintained that the purpose of a research is to obtained a correct deep explanations. Not just an explanation, but it has to be a deep explanation. And not just a deep explanation, but it has to be a correct deep explanation. That is why you have to accompany your explanations with a method to validate them, and the results of the validations that would prove that the explanations are correct.
I know that people have said that the purpose of a research is to answer a question. But what kind of question? Not just any question. First of all, it has to be an important question. Secondly, it has to be a question that asked about the explanation of some significant and important phenomena. Thirdly, it has to be a question that has a certain depth in it. And last, but not least, it has to be a question that requires the proof on the answer. In other words, any answer without the proof is not acceptable. Or to put it in other way, a question that doesn’t require proof alongside the answer is not a good research question.
I have seen many researches that simply ask whether there is a correlation between one phenomena to the other. I think these are legitimate researches. Finding a correlation is a good thing to do as long as it can be transformed into explanations (and of course they have to be accompanied by a method to validate them and the results of the validation). The problem is, we have to ask if the correlation that we find would bring us to deep enough explanations or is it only lead to the surface of the phenomena.
The depth of the question, therefore, is an important problem. There is a “minimum depth” of a research in order to be acceptable as a legitimate enough research. But of course, we can go deeper. This suggest layers of explanations. The deepest explanation would be an explanation about the most fundamental of things.
At this point, I have to stress that deeper researches are not always more complex. Often the deepest questions can be answered by the simplest of ideas. However, the simplest idea often require a genius to find it. In other words, the more complex may not be more difficult, and the simpler idea may actually be more difficult to find. Of course, there are instances where complexities are tantamount to difficulties. Here I just want to say that complexities are not identical with difficulties.
The “not so deep” researches are usually more technically challenging, while deeper researches are usually more philosophically challenging. The “not so deep” researches have to deal with technical complexities while the deeper researches have to deal with ideas.
At this point, I have to repeat that all explanations no matter how deep, have to be validated. Just because you are thinking at the deepest level, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to prove it. Without proof nothing is matter.