Week 9: thinking about research as process

Sparked by week 8’s materials and discussion, I’ve had some lingering thoughts about experiments on which I’d like to muse for this wild card blogging question.

While procrastinating this reading week I came across this study: http://io9.com/the-people-who-can-see-in-pitch-darkness-1455790525?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+io9%2Ffull+(io9) (For the original scientific article referenced in the io9 bit – doi: 10.1177/0956797613497968) The cumulative findings are (in a nutshell) that in perfect darkness, around 50% of people can see visual phenomena corresponding to the movement of their own hands, and that this effect appears to be linked somehow to synaesthesia.

The findings are fascinating – but what really captured my attention about this article was this research team’s persistence, how they returned to the same question over and over with systematic permutations of the first experiment. None of their individual experiments adequately measured the phenomenon, but cumulatively, the results are persuasive.

Our readings have covered the design of an experiment in detail, but there was nothing assigned (that I’ve found) which dealt with experiments in series. (The closest I found was in the Neuman and Robson, on comparing different research projects/experiments in order to reveal the potential flaws in each projects’ research design ( p. 202).) Naturally, much of the point of the literature review  is to find other, similar or supporting research, which goes toward making your own research a cumulative and contextualized endeavour. But I’ve been thinking that it is also important, when designing an experiment or research project, to remember that no one study can be so well-designed as to conclusively prove an issue: that we need to be thinking of our projects as they are shaped and limited by our available resources; and that we need to consider how our framing of our research might enable others to build on it in the future.

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