Tag Archives: research topic

5 Tips on How to Make a Mind Map for Research Purposes

Do you know that mind mapping is a useful research tool? Here are five tips on how to make a mind map in developing and enhancing your research topic. An example mind map on climate change is provided at the end of the article.

A mind map can portray relationships and interactions between the different variables or factors that arise from a given topic. For this reason, mind mapping can be effectively used in generating ideas to enrich and enhance your research topic. You can use your mind map in writing the introduction of your research paper or identify gaps in knowledge while preparing your review of literature. 

Five Tips on How to Make a Mind Map for Research Purposes

How do you keep the ideas flowing and enrich your mind map to show everything that comes to mind? The following are five tips on how to make a mind map for research purposes.

1. Don’t evaluate too much.

As you prepare the mind map, you will have the tendency to stop and evaluate if you did connect the right factors or variables that come to mind.

Why is this so?

This is because you are still unconsciously bound by rules or standards set to conform with the norm. You want to conform with what you have learned or what other people have set before you.

You need not be concerned about these rules or standards but allow your mind to flow smoothly or wander. Just let it go where it can comfortably go.

Starting with the central idea, connect any subtopic that comes to mind. Don’t ask yourself whether that subtopic or idea is appropriate to connect with the central idea or not. Just quickly write it and connect with the central idea.

2. Give a time limit for each subtopic listed down in your mind map.

Allow only a few seconds to ponder on a specific subtopic you have written. Don’t let a minute pass on a single topic so you can populate your mind map with more ideas.

3. Be creative.

Preparing a mind map is an opportunity to be creative. You need not only words to express what comes to your mind.

If you want to draw a symbol, scribble a note, place a quotation or anything that reminds you of a particular topic, do it. Graphical entries make your mind map more interesting.

4. Avoid analysis paralysis.

Oftentimes, we have the tendency to overanalyze things or plan too much. This is referred to as analysis paralysis. It’s a hindrance to a productive endeavor.

Don’t be a perfectionist in making your mind map. Briefly analyze how the variables or factors relate with each other and then go ahead with the other components as swiftly as you can. Through constant practice, this will help you process information quickly.

5. Read a lot. Your mind map is only as good as your exposure on a given topic. Therefore, it pays to educate yourself on the specific topic you want to write about or do research on.

Example Mind Map on Climate Change

Applying these tips, I prepared a mind map on climate change as the main theme. Many variables come into play and get incorporated in the mind map as I let my mind wander. I tried to be sensitive on what subtopics my mind suggests to incorporate.

Using the tips above, here’s an example of a mind map that I have produced in a matter of 30 minutes using a free version of XMind, a mind-mapping software.

climate change mind map
Example mind map on climate change (click to enlarge).

Try these tips and enhance your creativity in preparing mind maps.

© 2014 May 14 P. A. Regoniel

Research Goal: Its Importance in Designing a Study

Why is there a need to have a clear-cut research goal? Why is a goal important and how can it influence the research process? This article provides answers to these questions.

Have you found a research topic worthy of investigation? What studies have been done so far about it? What questions have not been answered by those studies?

These are just some of the basic questions you will have to ask yourself while contemplating and narrowing down your research topic. It is a must that the issue or concern is clear enough in your head such that you are able to figure out specific questions for your own study. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself the question:

“What is the goal of my research?”

The Importance of the Research Goal

You will be facing a very tedious task of doing a lot of unnecessary things, or find that your research results are unusable unless the research goal is well-defined. All efforts boil down to a particular purpose, i.e., towards fulfilling a desired effect. A clear picture of your research goal will help you steer your research work towards satisfactory completion.

Once the research goal is clear enough, the rest of the things you need to do will fall into place. Having a clear goal in mind, you can work backwards and design your study with greater confidence.

How the Goal Relates to the Research Process

The following fish bone diagram created using X-Mind, a mind mapping software, shows how the goal relates to the other components of the research process.

mind map to reach research goal
Fish bone diagram to realize a research goal.

The above diagram shows that to arrive at your research goal, you should list down a set of specific objectives to fully realize it. You also need to write specific research questions to reach that goal. Here is an example of a research goal and its set of objectives.

Second, to fulfill the objectives, appropriate research methods should be employed. There should be a one-to-one correspondence between objectives and method. For objective 1, method one will have to be employed; for objective 2, method two will be employed; for objective 3, method three will be employed, and so on, and so forth.

In coming up with the method, you may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What should I do to reach objective one (two, three, …)?
  • What things do I need to meet objective one (two, three, …)?

Third, designing the method entails defining the specific activities to be done and the time-frame to perform those activities. For example, a focus group discussion will require the participation of different sectors in the village. Thus, this will need coordination with the local leaders, identifying the participants of the discussion, looking for a conducive place to hold a meeting, preparing refreshments, and so on.

How long will all these preparations take? A GANTT chart will be helpful to achieve this end.

The following questions will prove handy in preparing your GANTT chart:

  • Will your study require travel? Who will travel and how frequent will this be?
  • Do you need to conduct meetings? Who will be involved in the meetings?
  • Will you be getting the response of a significant number of people in the study area?
  • How long will each of the activities take?

Fourth, you will need to identify those people who will help you do those activities. Applying the power of delegation is a must so you will be able to finish your research project within a reasonable time. You cannot do all the interviewing yourself especially if your random sampling estimate for the population requires at least 200 respondents. Also, you will need to find out how much all your transactions will cost.

Finally, you will have to identify the specific equipment or materials required to carry out your field work. Do you need a camera, recorder, measuring scale, LED projector, among others.

You might be tempted to request a lot of things for your research project especially if you have a generous funding source. But it’s good practice to purchase only those which you must really use. Your sponsoring funding agency will truly appreciate your management of scarce resources.

© 2014 April 24 P. A. Regoniel

Generating Your Research Topic: How to Look for the Knowledge Gap

One of the most difficult things associated with thesis writing is coming up with a good research topic. How can you generate one? What should you do? This article provides a simplified approach to this common concern of those new in the field of research.

You may find writing the literature review confusing, and feel that you don’t know where to start, as this part of research writing requires familiarity with the research topic being investigated. Familiarity will not happen unless you have read a great deal about what work or progress has been done to shed light to or understand why things happen the way they do, which in science is referred to as a phenomenon.

The ultimate aim of a review of literature is to provide background information about a phenomenon using existing relevant and reliable or credible literature. Scientists attempt to explain phenomenon, which, as expected, will always show a dearth of information on some aspects and fall short of your expectations. Along the way, as you examine the literature, there will always be questions in your mind, which you try to resolve by reading more – hoping that there will be answers to your questions somewhere. In the end, you will find yourself still looking for answers to your set of questions but find nothing that addresses your curiosity. Have you read enough? There’s a possibility that you might have not read everything, that there may be some literature that you have missed somewhere, somehow.

So, when should you stop reading relevant literature and conclude that indeed you have reached that point where you are convinced that no one has ever done anything or failed to answer adequately the questions that you have in mind? How can you ensure that you have exhausted available literature such that you are able to declare that there is a GAP in knowledge, and come up with your unique research topic? In reality, this is not an easy task, especially if you are new to the field of inquiry you are in.

beauty

This is the reason scientists specialize or stick to a particular study, research endeavor, or research topic for many years, trying to synthesize all work and fill in the gaps that will help explain phenomenon. The idea is to bring together all work there is available for scrutiny and get useful insights and hindsights – what has been done and what has been left undone. These initiatives should be made known to everyone concerned through peer-reviewed publications. Why peer-reviewed? That is because, persons working along those lines of inquiry will recognize that indeed, what you are doing is something that they do not know about and which they would want to know.

For all intents and purposes then, your gauge in saying that there is a GAP in knowledge, is to read the work of those scientists or researchers who are recognized authority on those research topics you want to explore. These scientists or researchers publish their findings in reputable scientific journals. What they are saying or have done so far, will serve as benchmark or springboard for further inquiry.

How will you know that a person is knowledgeable or the authority on a certain topic of inquiry given that you are new in that field? Well, one way to do so is to see if he has other research papers on the same topic available for examination, or probably see his credentials. After all, those in authority in a given field are those who can convince everyone that what he is doing, his arguments, are the most sensible explanation of a phenomenon. But if you have a better idea, then show your evidence. Who knows, your suggestions or propositions are better than anyone else’s.

© 2014 February 8 P. A. Regoniel

Five Techniques to Review Related Literature

A well written, comprehensive and logical literature review demonstrates good scholarship. But many students usually find themselves with only a few articles to figure out their research topic. How will they approach this problem? Here are five techniques to review related literature.

Greetings to all subscribers!

The past month had been a hectic one for me as I adjust to my new schedule after a long leave from academic work. I need to handle subjects which require intensive gathering of materials for both syllabus preparation as well as lecture sessions. I was assigned two classes of third year undergraduate students enrolled in Research 01, many of whom have not had any experience on doing research in their high school years. As I introduce the subject to them, bug-eyed students wonder on what the heck I was talking about. Honing research skills such that students are able to do independent research poses a challenge to anyone handling this subject.

Simplyeducate.me proved to be a useful site for them, as I encouraged them to visit the site and learn the ropes of research. They were just glad to read something from someone they are familiar with, and even get that opportunity to ask me personally about their concerns. They need not surf and spend so much time online just to get some ideas useful in working out their thesis.

I asked them to come up with their respective topics, that is, related to their respective fields. This is not easy as it would require a lot of observations and readings to pin down what specific topics they are interested in. To narrow down their frame of mind on what specific topics they need to look into, I gave them the university’s research agenda to guide them along the way. These agenda include climate change concerns for those enrolled in environmental science and alternative approaches to common ailments for those taking biology.

To get a better view of the topics the students are interested in within the agenda mentioned, they should read related literature about those topics. So how should they go about it? Below are five tips that can prove helpful.

Five Techniques to Review Literature

1. Visit open access journals.

One of my favorite open access site where I can download literature on many topics in environmental science is www.doaj.org. In this site, there are full papers available for free download. You just need to be patient as you browse the site using your keyword. Elsevier also has a list of open access journals here.

There are many other open access journals if you have the time and the patience to do surfing. While these may be free, you will notice that your choices are limited. And you also need to be aware that there are open access journals which are predatory, meaning, it seeks to exploit or oppress others. Beal provides a comprehensive list of these questionable journals. It will always help if you read some reviews before spending your valuable time on those listed, especially if you intend to publish your research output.

impostor

If you have no better choice and can spend ample time to look for those articles which you believe can help you develop your research topic, open access journals are the default choice at least for a start. Verify if your library has paid subscriptions to popular scientific journals which offer more choices. This will cut down time for you to be able to understand current research and establish the state of the art.

 2. Ask a professor for copies of their article collections.

One MS student approached me the other day asking if I have literature on community based resource management. Indeed, her inquiry bore fruit as I subscribe to a biannual environmental science journal. I lent her six issues and she was so grateful for the help.

Don’t hesitate to approach someone who might be working on something similar to your line of interest. Almost always, there’s a pile of literature he can share with you so you can quickly browse the topics.

3. Join sites where scientific articles are shared.

One of the growing websites that many scientists join is academia.edu. A colleague reminded me that is a good source of scientific articles, because some generous scientists upload and share their articles for everyone to peek into and possibly include in their list of related literature. You may also write those scientists who might be interested in your proposed investigation. I uploaded an article in portable document format (PDF) myself and I noticed high traffic on that single article alone. Now, academia.edu boasts 7,133,903 member researchers.

4. Visit relevant government offices.

A trip to government offices who usually have mini-libraries store information on office programs, projects, and activities plus other informative materials for public use can help you enhance the quality of information in your study area’s profile. Statistics on demographics, detailed maps, and recent public service initiatives are commonly found in these offices.

Research is meant to improve the quality of human life, and the government is tasked to provide welfare to the general public. Thus, you can orient your research to address issues and problems that were already identified in such government offices.

If your study is about the environment, then the sensible choice is the environment agency of the government. You can help improve on or enhance current environmental policy using identified issues and concern on the environment as government employees interact directly with local communities. Surely, your research will be appreciated by policy makers.

5. Replicate yourself.

Why do the literature by yourself when you can engage the help of others — for a fee, of course. I did this when I was conceptualizing my research topic. I learned that there was a group of graduate students who offered to do the literature review for a fixed rate. They do all the legwork, i.e., scrounging the libraries and finding relevant materials based on my set of keywords and problem statement. That surely saved me a lot of time while I narrow down my research topic using my collection of related literature. The added material will strengthen my arguments and/or redefine the direction of my investigation.

If you prefer to do things online, see the most common types of sources in a research paper.

© 2014 February 17 P. A. Regoniel

What is a Good Research Problem?

Are you still unsure what thesis topic to pursue in the course of honing your skills in research? Or maybe you have already one but you are in doubt if it is a good research problem at all? Read on to find out if you’re on the right track.

One of the difficulties that graduating undergraduate and graduate students encounter in the course of preparing their thesis involve the proper selection of their research problem. If you are one of them, how should you go about it? How will you know that the research problem is good enough for you to spend your time, money, and effort?

A Good Research Problem

You will find out that a good research problem is a good one if you have critically assessed and satisfied at least two things:

  1. Are there available methods to carry it out?
  2. Do you have the resources to pursue it?

Take a look and see if you have these things at your disposal. If not, then, you are not yet ready to do anything at all.

Methods

In doing any kind of research, you need to use a standardized method so that other researchers can confirm your findings or you are able to compare your results with someone who pursued the same topic as yours.What methods have been used so far to allow the resolution of the research problem?

impostor

This requires you to browse the literature and look for appropriate methods on the topic at hand. Reviewing the literature will also help you keep up with current topics, identify which ones need more information or lack data for better understanding of a given phenomenon.

Reviewing the literature doesn’t mean reading one or two scientific papers but several, or a lot, so that you are able to synthesize or point out what has been missed, inconsistent findings, or different conclusions between authors. This just means that studies on that topic has not yet matured and that further studies need to be conducted to resolve pertinent issues.

Resources

Resources refer to things such as available time to complete the research, the amount of money you will need to do the activities associated with your research, your capacity as a researcher, availability of equipment needed for data collection and analysis, among others.

Attending conferences and talking with experts on a current issue can also guide you in your thinking. Is there local interest to pursue the research issue? If there is, then you can take off from where others have left and discover new relationships between variables.

Once you find a good research problem where you are able to state it clearly and well, you can consider half of your work done. You are well on your way towards becoming an accomplished researcher.

© 2013 December 20 P. A. Regoniel

Using a Matrix to Prepare Your Research Proposal

Is there a way to simplify the preparation of your research or thesis proposal without leaving out the important items to include in its preparation? Try the matrix approach described here and reap the benefits.

You may find yourself getting into the trouble  of writing and rewriting your thesis proposal because you tend to miss important details pertinent to what you intend to investigate on and how you are going to go about it. Research or thesis proposal preparation is very time-consuming and can cause undue worry especially if you have set a fixed time frame to finish your thesis. If your desire is to have your research proposal approved soonest so you can start gathering the data you need, this is for you.

A systematic way of ensuring that everything is well addressed or covered fully in your research paper is possible with the use of a matrix. This technique is most appropriate when you want to make sure that you have adequate preparation, especially the appropriate methods to use, to answer the research questions.

What is a matrix?

My students would mull at me every time I tell them about using a matrix to do their research work in a more ordered, straightforward or effective manner. This is a not-so-common technical term to most of them. Although they usually wouldn’t ask, I follow-up with an explanation of what a matrix means.

I would then scrounge for a clean sheet of paper or anything that can serve the purpose to illustrate how a matrix can be used to set one’s mind into focus. A matrix is basically a table with rows and columns. The technique works this way:

1. Prepare a table with the following headings for each column:

  • research question,
  • methodology, and
  • statistical analysis.

You may fold the sheet of paper into three equal-sized columns or draw a line downwards to separate each column.

2. List the research questions

Under the heading “Research Question,” write the series of research questions that you intend to pursue in their logical order. Logical order means that you arrange research questions chronologically. It is ordered in such a way that answering the first question will facilitate the resolution of the next question.

3. Supply the required methods to answer the research questions

Under the heading “Methodology,” look at the left column and think how you would go about answering the research question. What shall you use to provide the information required in the first question, the second one, third, and so on. As you finish writing the method to use, place a line beneath to separate the questions and their corresponding methods from each other.

4. Select the appropriate statistical tool

Under the third column with the heading “Statistical Analysis,” recall your statistics lessons or consult a statistician about the correct statistical tool to analyze the facts to be gathered in the study. Does the research question need simple descriptive statistics such as mean, median, mode or percentages? Or do you need to apply a correlation analysis, a test of difference between means, or a multivariate analysis? You can also add under this column the corresponding graphs or tables that you will need for better discussion of the findings.

Now, guided by your matrix, you will be able to answer your research questions with confidence. You make sure that everything is covered by setting a one-to-one correspondence in the crucial elements of the research proposal, i.e., the research questions, the methodology, and the corresponding statistical analysis.

An example is given below to show it should look:

example matrix

That wraps it up. Try it and be more systematic in preparing your research proposal.

© 2013 December 4 P. A. Regoniel

Things You Don’t Know About the Black Wasp

Reading this article will help you understand why we should treat the black wasp with respect and appreciation. Black wasps play an important ecological role.

Chances are, when a black wasp enters your home and buzzes its way around, you will try to swat it with anything you can lay your hands on. They are known for their painful sting. In fact, a worker at home once unwittingly disturbed a black wasp’s nest attached to a mango leaf. She sustained three to five stings on her face and had to be hospitalized.

However, after reading this personal discovery about the black wasp’s nest, your behavior towards it will change. Black wasps have important ecological role.

The Mud Nest and Its Contents

Yesterday, when I glanced at the sill of the small screened bathroom window, I noticed a solitary black wasp circling around its nest of mud. I watched it while it makes its way inside the small opening on top of the nest. A few moments later, it flew away.

inside black wasp nest
Fig. 1. The mud nest of black wasp and its contents.

Anticipating that the mud nest will grow in time, I decided to remove it but not after finding out what’s inside that small mound. I carefully removed the nest, starting from the bottom and placed it on a folder to take a picture of its contents.

I was surprised to see that the small mound was full of living creatures. See Figure 1 at right.

There are at least three species of living organisms in the picture. From the left, are two black wasp larvae (the smaller one is yellow-green and the bigger one, light chocolate-brown), a pale red colored caterpillar of an unknown species, and three orange-spotted caterpillars of another species. There’s another one not included in this picture because its life juice was sucked out by the black wasp’s larva; but that one is visible in the video below.

Relationship Between Organisms in the Mud Nest

How do these organism’s interact inside that cramped space of mud? Initially, I thought all of them were developing larvae of the black wasp. But then a question came up in my mind, “how can the larva survive without food in that closed chamber of mud?” Then it dawned to me that the longer ones are actually caterpillars that serve as food for the two plump black wasp larvae.

Also, several months ago, I swatted a wasp and off fell a caterpillar from it. That gave me the idea that the black wasp brought these caterpillars into the mud chamber after laying its egg which then hatches into a larvae. The larva attaches itself to the paralyzed caterpillar and then sucks it dry. That’s a simple hypothesis, and I verified this by bringing the bigger larva close to the caterpillars and see if indeed it will attempt to feed on the caterpillar. The video below shows how it behaved.

[youtube=https://whttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNyKBF84FHQ&rel=0]

The video verified my observation that the wasp larva feeds on the caterpillar until it has enough food ingested for the pupa stage. The proportion seems to be that for each larva in a chamber, two caterpillars were allocated by the mother wasp.

The Black Wasp’s Egg

I peered inside the hole of the unbroken chamber. It is difficult to take a picture through the small hole, so I cut it in half to show a cross-section. Inside is a small egg attached by an almost invisible thread onto the roof of the chamber, hanging there and moving to and fro as I positioned it for a close up picture (see Figure 2). In other descriptions of wasp species, the eggs are laid after food is made available. This species lays the egg first, then finds food in time for the newly hatched larva.

black wasp egg
Fig. 2. The black wasp egg inside a chamber made of mud.

Notice that there is only one egg inside the 1.5 mm thick chamber and there are no other holes anywhere inside it. The top part has a 5 mm opening, enough to squeeze in a caterpillar of specific size, and of course, the black wasp. This means that the wasp chooses a prey with a circumferential size small enough to fit through the hole. This indicates species specificity, meaning, the black wasp is choosy of its prey.

Once the food is deposited, the wasp covers the hole and builds another one to repeat the process until the nest becomes large enough to form a colony. The developing larva inside is safe from ant attack.

Implications of the Findings

This personal encounter draws out many questions that researchers in the biology of the black wasp can explore further:

  1. Which butterfly species do the caterpillar that serve as prey of the black wasp belong? Are they considered pests to farms (since caterpillars are voracious leaf eaters)?
  2. How long will it take for the black wasp’s egg to hatch?
  3. How does the pupa of the black wasp look like?
  4. How long does each stage of the life cycle take?
  5. Why is the black wasp’s egg suspended in the chamber instead of on the floor?
  6. What specific material is the mud nest made up of and how are the materials glued together?

Many more questions can be asked from the observation. These questions arose as gaps in knowledge because the information provided is a one-shot deal. It is akin to a case study. These are exploratory questions based on a single case.

From these questions, the following hypotheses may be tested:

  • The black wasp’s feeding habit can help regulate pest population in farms.
  • The black wasp suspends its egg to give it just the right temperature to allow hatching inside the chamber.
  • The black wasp uses wet mud to build the nest.
  • The life cycle of the black wasp coincides with the life cycle of the prey.

A review of literature will now be more meaningful as you learn things and compare what you have found. In so doing, you can design and carry out a more systematic and rigorous research.

It’s fun discovering and learning things through actual encounter. Using a little wit to deduce relationships between things can help you appreciate how intricate and wonderful life is in this world.

Are all these arrangements a matter of accident or evolution? There must be an Intelligent Being who is responsible for all these wonders.

© 2013 September 17 P. A. Regoniel

Five Weaknesses of the Survey Method

When not designed properly, data obtained using the survey method is next to useless. Find out why.

While a lot of information can be gained from surveys as it is easy to get large samples using the method, results should be taken with caution because of its inherent weaknesses. This is the reason data analysts do not treat data obtained from surveys in the same way as those obtained using other means, that is, those that do not rely on people’s opinions or subjective judgment.

So what are the weaknesses of the survey method? Below is a list with brief explanations.

Weaknesses of the Survey Method

1. Respondents protect their interest

There is really no guarantee about the truthfulness of the respondent’s answers. When dealing with sensitive or controversial issues, there is a tendency among interviewees to avoid answers that may be detrimental to their interests. They may not even answer the question at all.

2. Attitude is different from behavior

As the famous expression goes: “Do what I say, not what I do.” A considerable number of research on the relationship between attitude and behavior has demonstrated that there is no correlation between what people say they would do than their actual behavior.

In a recent study in the United Kingdom, for example, 99% of people interviewed said they had washed their hands after using the toilet. The truth is, as revealed by electronic recording devices, only 32% of the men and 64% of the women actually did it.[1]

People know what is expected of them, pretend that they do it when actually they don’t.

3. Responses are taken lightly

Some respondents are not really predisposed to answering questions especially if it involves answering a series of long questions. Similarly, the interviewer may not be very keen about the data collection.

asking questions

4. Poor memory among respondents

Interviewees tend to forget past events, places, or experiences. Their answers, therefore, are mainly estimates or rough approximations as their memory would allow them to recall those things.

Would you rely on information recalled 20 years ago by a 60-year-old respondent? Of course not.

5. Answers can be manipulated

Some interviewees answer the questionnaires to gain a favor. People answer what they believe the interviewer wants to hear. This threatens the validity of the answer.

What Then Should Be Done?

To get the most from using the survey method, particular attention must be given to the design of the questionnaires,selection of samples, and administration. For greater reliability and validity, other methodologies are applied to confirm the findings of a survey (see Triangulation).

Reference

1. Winterman, D. (2012, October 15). Handwashing: Why are the British so bad at washing their hands? Retrieved September 2, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19834975

© 2013 September 4 P. A. Regoniel

Examples for Research Design Development

How do you come up with your research design? Here are two examples of blood pressure exploratory studies as leads toward research design development.

Blood Pressure Exploratory Study

I find the practical aspects of applying research enjoyable and designed experiments to uncover some relationships or to resolve my problem.

Several years ago, I convinced my doctor to cut my blood pressure drug maintenance. I simply presented to him a graph I prepared using a spreadsheet application and an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to compare my blood pressure readings with the full dosage of the drug, half of it, and a fourth of it. I also compared the two groups at a time using t-test and I got the same results. The graph and the statistical analysis showed my blood pressure readings did not show a significant difference as I gradually reduced the dosage of the prescribed drug.

The Diet Experiment

The primary purpose of the above experiment is to see whether diet can produce the same results as a drug in lowering blood pressure. One of the active components of the drug in question was potassium. I thought it is better to take natural food to get the mineral. I computed the amount of potassium that corresponds to the dosage by eating a number of potatoes that will supply such amount and gradually reduced the drug dosage while monitoring my blood pressure daily.

From my musings on the nutritional value of potato, it would take about two to three medium-sized potatoes to get the same amount of potassium. So, I took at least three potatoes a day to correspond to the amount of potassium required as I reduced on the drug dosage.

When I came around 1/4 of the prescribed dose, I asked the doctor if I can forego the drug because I suspect it is one of the reasons why I was feeling weak. And I confirmed it by finding information on the side effects of the drug. The doctor was amazed because I reduced the drug to such a small amount that, according to him does not anymore provide substantial benefit in lowering blood pressure. My blood pressure has stabilized. He said I can forgo the drug and return to him when my blood pressure rises again.

Despite this apparent success in my desire to live without the drug in my system, I do not recommend this approach to anybody because it might work differently to different people. I take certain precautions when I do conduct studies on myself.

Blood Pressure and Exercise Experiment

exerciseRecently, I’m at it again. This time, I just would like to verify if indeed exercise provides the benefit of lowering blood pressure. My readings say so and I would like to personally find out what the numbers will show. I monitored by blood pressure before exercise, right after exercise and 15 minutes or more after my exercise so that my blood pressure will stabilize at rest.

I just started this last week and saw a trend just from three readings. I show the results of the blood pressure monitoring in the table below.

blood pressure data

The results are interesting because obviously, my blood pressure went down right after exercise and dropped more 15 minutes after. Upon waking up, my blood pressure readings show that my systolic reading  indicating the maximum arterial pressure is higher than the normal 120mm Hg but the systolic reading is normal. After exercise, the systolic pressure reduced greatly just by visual inspection even while the heartbeat is high. After 15 minutes, the systolic and diastolic readings even went down further while my heartbeat approximates its normal value.

So are the results conclusive enough that exercise lowers blood pressure? There is no doubt exercise lowers blood pressure[1] but I have not seen details on how much blood pressure is reduced by exercise. This data informs me right away the benefits of exercise and serve as an encouragement to engage and maintain my exercise routine.

Today, when I went for my usual six kilometer run in 41 minutes and 38 seconds (the fastest so far in that distance), my blood pressure after exercise approximates the previous values. It is 104/65 with a heartbeat of 95. Again, after my heartbeat stabilized 15 minutes later at 64, while my corresponding blood pressure is 101/59.

Data Collection Procedure for the Exercise Experiment

How did I come up with such values? What is the data collection procedure? I collected this data systematically, making consistent readings as much as I can. Roughly, the data collection procedure goes this way and can be replicated by anybody.

Record BP and heartbeat –> stretching exercise for five minutes –> slow walk of 8 minutes –> run proper –> cooling down with a slow walk for about 15 minutes –> five-minute stretching –> record BP and heartbeat –> rest for 15 minutes –> record BP and heartbeat

I used an Omron Automatic Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor in making blood pressure readings. It read a little higher than the standard sphygmomanometer but it reads consistently. So it will be easy to calibrate it for more standardized results.

From this exploratory study which confirms the benefits of exercise in a quantitative way, a research design may be developed for more rigorous analysis. You should notice, however, that sleep may also have an influence on blood pressure readings so I marked the third reading with an asterisk. The quality of my sleep in the first two readings is not that good as I only had six or less hours of sleep while on the third reading, I got quality sleep of seven hours or more. This apparently resulted to lower blood pressure readings upon waking up.

This means that if I pursue this experiment, I should make my measurements consistent and consider the hours of sleep and factor it in for analysis. I should also make sure that monitoring time should be the same all throughout the duration of the study.

Now, the question is: “Are there studies conducted like this before?” I actually don’t know as in truth I am not a medical researcher. At best, my experience is only a case study; a description of my case. But a review of literature will tell me if a similar experiment was done by anyone on a greater number of people. These experiments are guided by different theories on the effects of exercise to health developed through time. In my case, I just did it out of mere curiosity to verify my readings which are also backed by theories.

From these initial data, an experimental research design may be developed to ensure that the evidence obtained answers the questions initially posed for the study. Two questions were posed in these two examples: 1) Can a well-planned diet produce the same results as a drug in lowering blood pressure?, and 2) Does exercise lower blood pressure?

From simple case studies like these, experiments may be designed to test if the findings are consistent for a greater number of people. This will also provide insights on which variables should be included for analysis.

Reference

1. Mayo Clinic (n.d.). Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure. Retrieved August 27, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00024

© 2013 August 26 P. A. Regoniel

Newly Discovered Mammal Species Olinguito vs The Bearcat

Have you heard or read about a new mammal species discovered in Mount Andes in South America? It is called olinguito. The bearcat resembles it. See the difference.

As I browsed the internet for current information on science, I bumped on the Science Daily website featuring olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), a mammal species of mistaken identity. What first struck my attention is that olinguito resembles the mammal I took a shot two weeks ago in a wildlife conservation facility. It is called the Palawan bearcat.

Olinguito vs Bearcat

Examining the picture of the newly discovered mammal species closely, I could not help but compare it with the bearcat (Arctictis binturong whitei) which is found in Palawan. Accordingly, the olinguito looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear.

The Palawan bearcat is similarly described. It is also a cross between a bear and a cat but it neither belongs to the bear nor the cat family. The mammal belongs to the family Viverridae[1].

For copyright reasons, I could not post a picture of the olinguito for comparison here, but this is available in the ABC News website. Indeed, the olinguito looks very much similar to the mammal found in the western part of the Philippines, in the island of Palawan.

You may click the link to the ABC News website to see a picture of olinguito that bears close resemblance to the bearcat I show below.

Palawan bearcat
The Palawan bearcat (Arctictis binturong).

Feeding Habit of the Bearcat vs the Olinguito

The bearcat is sometimes treated as a distinct species although it looks very much like the ones found in Borneo. It has a prehensile tail, meaning, its tail can grasp an object. This is because the bearcat lives in tree canopies to feed on both plant material and other smaller animals like insects, rodents, birds and even fish[2]. Thus, it is omnivorous (animal and plant eater) as opposed to olinguito which is a carnivore (exclusively flesh-eater).

The information on olingo’s feeding habit, however, is a bit confusing because the headline in Science Daily says it is a carnivore. But scrolling down further in the website, it reports that during the three-week expedition of Helgen and Kays, they noted that it is a nocturnal animal and feeds mainly on fruits[3].

This requires further study as the discovery of this new species spurred interest on finding out more about its characteristics, habitat, distribution and conservation. More expeditions are being planned at the moment.

Behavior and Size Comparison

I find the bearcat much cuter than the olinguito. In fact, tourists love to have the tamed bearcat on their shoulders for a quick shot every time they visit the Palawan Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Center (PWRCC) where several of them are kept in captivity. Placing the bearcat on one’s shoulders, however, is a dangerous practice because the bearcat can rip flesh easily just like a bear.

More than a decade ago, I saw someone made the mistake of handling it when it was already big and got slashed by its razor-sharp claws in the process. It is docile when tamed but accidents do happen.

The bearcat grows up to 1.4 meters and weigh more than 20 kilograms as opposed to olinguito’s two pounds. This probably is the reason why olinguito was named so. It is a small olingo.

A Demonstration of Keenness

New findings like this arise from a keen sense of observation which good researchers must possess. For many years, the olinguito was regarded as a species of kinkajou, another mammal living within the same geographic range. But it took a team of scientists headed by Helgen, who noticed olinguito’s smaller teeth and skull in the museum collections, to uncover a feature that everyone overlooked. Keenness is the key.

Reference

1. Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 548–559. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/biology/resources/msw3/browse.asp?id=14000270

2. Widmann, P., De Leon, J. & Duckworth, J.W. 2008. Arctictis binturong. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. . Downloaded on 16 August 2013.

3. Smithsonian Institute (2013, August 15). New species of carnivore looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/08/130815143101.htm

© 2013 August 16 P. A. Regoniel