Research as Understanding - Kanjun Qiu

Research as Understanding
by Kanjun Qiu

Summary: newbies to research often think of sabotage themselves by thinking of research as a fundamentally distinct activity, focused on “producing novel discoveries,” for instance by using the scientific method. But understanding something no one’s ever understood before isn’t so different from the same kind of intense understanding you pursue when trying to answer a question that others have answered before. In both cases, you’re trying to understand something very deeply because there’s a question you desperately want to answer; “research” is what happens when no one can tell you the answer, but the fundamentals aren’t so different. And “novel discoveries” are a byproduct of this process of understanding, rather than

We’re naturally curious; we already know how to learn, how to notice when something doesn’t make sense. We ask questions, and we work out the answer. At some point, we’ll ask questions where nobody has the answer. At that point, we’re starting to do research.

Very related:

Q. What self-sabotaging belief did Kanjun Qiu identify about doing research?
A. Believing that research was all about “trying to make novel discoveries”, something totally different from other types of understanding she’d experienced.

Q. What relationship does Kanjun Qiu propose between research and “making novel discoveries”?
A. Novel discovery is a side effect of trying to understand something very deeply. You don’t make novel discoveries by trying to make novel discoveries.

Q. What generalizable error did Kanjun Qiu make by “trying to make novel discoveries”?
A. Focusing on a byproduct of a process rather than the process itself.

Q. What’s the key significance of framing research as a process of understanding, for people trying to do research?
A. “Research” is just a label we assign to the part of the understanding process that’s digging past the questions that have already answered. It’s not something fundamentally unfamiliar.

Last updated 2023-07-13.