Part 2: I am not doing PhD, I am doing Research.

[Writing]

Basically we can put like this – reading affects writing and writing affects reading. Good writers are also good readers. Activities while reading and writing share many of the same working brain’s memory region, and potentially draw upon the same as well as unique cognitive systems. Neuroscientists perhaps have more evidences or maybe can praise it more to creativity, but personally I can sense the strong correlation between my writing and reading activities. I hardly write if I don’t read. When writing this blog, or reading classic machine learning book that are well-written, I can feel a super computer inside my brain working in background with harmony. Writing and reading are coupled, can’t be separated when we deeply involve in research.

Why we have to write? That was an interesting question from a student in my Research Methodology class. I believe, as researcher, we have more than enough reason to write. However putting it in discipline way is quite hard. Not all of students have discipline to write even they know it is mandatory requirement to write dissertation.  Not only for communication and publication of research results, writing is the best way to debug and validate our own thinking. Maybe the best question is why writing is hard? And my last answer was potentially because we don’t read enough. Yes, writing is sometime painful. Even in our R&D organization, engineers who must write simply don’t do. For researcher – it is not an acceptable excuse. It is a fastest way to fail.

I am not going to teach how to write – many books done it and we just need to practice. I prefer to suggest reading a lot – reports, books and papers related to our research. The first law of writing is to have “initial” contents and contexts in order to know what we want to write. It doesn’t have to be complete or perfect when started. In fact – perfectionism will end up as never ending polishing. The practice I did for so long is to write letter to someone I respect or love. I will do it in the most structured way – to make him/her understand correctly. Pick right words carefully, meaningfully and set an interesting story line or contexts. However, think of it as a conversation with them – not everything goes perfectly; some lost words or maybe mistakes, but it should be flowing well. It is similar to technical blog post or paper. It must be flowing like a conversation to someone you respect or love.

Writing for research is not a trivial task without practices. I can’t cover the details now, need more time until I experiences publishing new paper or patent (as I am new PhD student as well). However, based on my master degree experiences on theoretical physics, writing technical paper to about telling stories of what we have done in the lab. We have to make it easy to reader (usually also physicists) to understand what we have done, how we did it and what insights we have. We have common language that maybe hard to understand for non-physicists and we also trimmed some concepts as the pages of publication are limited. However, it not a sales brochure to sell crappy things with big claims. It is plain text – to explain our research idea, process, and results.

Writing academic / scientific research paper requires guidance and practices. A lot of practices and usually take sometime to be familiar. You can easily find guidance in internet, however, to be more organized, pick book that is well-written. I am not going to cover here, but based on my personal experiences, reading lot of papers also can help us to be more familiar with writing.

TSMRA – Jakarta, March 2016.

One response

  1. As noted earlier… Fundamental ideas based on research are perhaps the most problematic, because they are exceptionally difficult to anticipate or predict, and they can be very disruptive. There is a lot of power in the insights and ideas generated from research, but often not enough patience on the part of the executive team or enough focus on the part of the researchers, so this activity can often become an “Alice in Wonderland” exercise unless carefully scripted, which is why many ideas from research often result when research is linked to directed innovation… as Einstein says, “the only source of knowledge is experience”… Good luck!

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