Formal vs Informal research personal reflection

Something that really stood out to me in today’s class that I didn’t realize was just how similar the research we do everyday is to formal research performed both by IT professionals (when designing and developing new systems and applications) and academics.

What do I mean by everyday research. Well an example from my life recently is I recently researched which tour company to use in a trip to Egypt and Jordan I am planning to visit at the end of this year (hence the header image of the pyramids).

The process I went through to select a suitable tour to pay to go on was:

  1. Identify that I wanted to go to Egypt and that I wanted to go on a tour
  2. General search for tour companies available in Egypt and their tours
  3. Filtered the available tours based on the dates I was going to be in Egypt and the budget I had
  4. Compared the tours based on where in Egypt they visited and their price
  5. Simplified down what I wanted out of a tour to Egypt and Jordan based on what I had read in tour summaries and reviews
  6. Made decision to go with the ‘Highlights of Egypt’ tour by G Adventures.
  7. Went to the travel agent and booked my selected tour
  8. Justified the choice to myself, and told friends and family about it

To transform the research process of everyday (informal) research (as shown above) into formal research there are 3 further constraints that need to be applied:

  • Critical study – Looking at all sides of the argument to make sure the whole spectrum is covered and then to reflect on all the sources and draw your own conclusions, justifying them.
  • Scientific inquiry method – Performing research in a systematic way that gives a repeatable result. This often works best for the hard sciences such as chemistry where the same reagents mixed together will always give the same result.
  • Systematic – This is where you follow a particular plan to perform research. When the systematic approach is applied to social sciences it will often not give repeatable results because unlike hard sciences social sciences studies people who are fickle.

I used to think formal research would have been far more differentiated than the process I went through due to those performing the formal research often being higher level tertiary students completing PHD theses.

Having said this I had realized that it is not just academics that perform formal research its IT professionals as well because in my summer IT internship (as discussed in ‘My initial thoughts on research‘ post) where I had to develop a new feature for Koha library management system I had to research similar features in competing systems, as well as solutions to coding errors. So research skills are necessary throughout the whole of the systems development life cycle not just the analysis and design phase.