Monday, December 18

Doing Perfect Research? Is This Possible?

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Hello guys at Bukisa, this is my first contact with you all at Bukisa. I write for many publications both online and offline. It will be my pleasure to share all my thoughts on every subject that I think I should share with you all. So here goes with the first thought. I ‘ve been doing a lot of research for everything I write  and at most times it was exhausting and overwhelmimg. Is it possible to do perfect research?

You see research over a product, appliance, an issue or a belief can never be perfect and complete. It is a never ending process. If research on the desktop computer was complete and satisfying, we would never have had the laptop. If the CDMA cell phone was all that we could hope to possess, none of us would be walking around proudly with our GPRS enabled mobiles. Fresh information added regularly to what we already know has brought us all from the steam engine we once adored so much to the express electric locomotive we enjoy today, from the single-seat airplane to the giant jumbo jetliner we travel these days. All of this was made only possible due to the untiring efforts by Man with his never ending thirst to know more. This perpetual quest is the watchword we are talking about today – Research.

Having said that, let’s take a closer look for a moment at what this word ‘Research’ actually means to us. It can be said that ‘it is the essential systematic ongoing creative pursuit for we humans to improve our lives.’ As toddlers we eagerly arranged little blocks of plastic pyramids to make sense of words and their letters. What began as a simple letter in plain white paper to a friend or relative gradually led to an entire thesis being now written on hard disk. A scientist studying the structure of the atom has advanced so far as to conduct experiments that can easily destroy the world in hours. All of these great results were achieved after the individuals engaged in what we call as research. Watching people and their experiences, conducting lab and industrial tests, taking notes while sitting for hours at the library are all the different types of research.

But it must be pointed out that research is not just in collecting information. It is in the choosing, sorting, understanding and assessing the gathered data that sets us to make convincing declarations about facts and truths about the material collected. When we conduct research we begin at the beginning with what we already know and then proceed gradually into the unfamiliar, all with the sole purpose of examining some characteristic of the world so as to draw provable assertions about it. 

 It was so far and so good. But the problem soon steps in. As it is a continuously changing process of learning and evaluating, the results may differ because of the given set of data at the time of conducting the research. A scientist doing research in India can come up with diametrically opposite results to those projected by one in the United States, all because of the data supplied and used at different times. Their individual environment may also have played a significant role in declaring opposite results. Have we not heard of ‘excess Vitamin A causes blindness?’ While another person in South Korea drawing conclusions at just the opposite? Have we not heard of ‘for and against lifting weights?’ Had research been totally perfect and complete, we would never have had these diverging opinions. What about Pro-Life and the right to have abortions? The list goes on and on and will continue to remain so. There can never be the perfect research that just about settles everything and we all have to accept it. 

I shall now narrate from an interesting anecdote from not long ago that substantiates my claim that no research is perfect and complete. I was an ardent student at the Writers Bureau in London in the 1990s from where I can proudly claim my credentials as a writer. We had an exceptionally gifted and kind writing teacher who taught me all there is to know about ‘The Whole Composition and You.’ Like everyone else, I was taught on ‘how to write with persuasion,’ on ‘how to clarify my writing goals in a concrete thesis statement’ and much more. Miss Reynolds asked me to write quite a number of those term papers in class. In one such paper she asked me to discuss about ‘eating chocolate,’ both for and against. Is there any one on Earth who has not tasted a chocolate? And yet we were always told about its harmful effects. Caffeine causes hypertension. I found out while on my reading that many of these chocolates contained excess sugar. Everyone knows that excess sugar causes diabetes, high pressure and many other complaints. Did we stop eating chocolates altogether? For soon came additional research that cocoa related products had antioxidants that can reduce the risk of many diseases. Some researchers have gone further to say that the cocoa in chocolates reduces blood pressure and improves the working of the heart. They say the nitric oxide in the chocolate flavonoids stops blood clots. If research was perfect, none of us would be eating chocolates today. Companies like ‘Hershey’ may have closed down long ago.

For yet another paper our instructor asked me to write on ‘using shampoo.’ Again she asked to include opposing views. And while doing the customary researching, I read from many research and development scientists about the effects of the dangerous chemicals in these shampoos. I was told about how these chemicals harmed the scalp. They warned us about how the Sodium lauryl sulphate in these shampoos that whips up the lather actually induces cancer. Did we stop using shampoos forever? If research was perfect, most of us would have stopped using shampoos. For up came the idea of using coconut hair shampoo. Again research on coconut shampoos argued that overuse of regular shampoos caused dryness to the scalp making it devoid of much needed pure oils for healthy hair growth. Furthermore I learnt that the coconut oil in the coconut shampoos actually restores the moisture that was lost due to frequent hair washing with traditional shampoos. Once again it was ongoing research that has saved us our hair.

These anecdotes have firmly established one simple fact – current research most certainly adds something to conclusions drawn earlier, sometimes arguing in the opposite. Additionally, they can be doomed with errors or even prejudice on the part of the researcher. The battle will continue to stay on. Perfect research can only be on paper.

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