Honing Research Skills through Self-Study

Can someone publish a research paper without prior knowledge of research skills and tools provided by the formal study? Read on to find out.

Can someone do research without formal training such as that obtained from a university? The answer is Yes. Why not? After all, science evolved from people who have been asking questions and got curious of phenomena around them.

But then standards have to be established so that researchers will understand each other and follow on the findings of others. There should be a baseline or reference that shall serve as springboard for further study.

Nowadays, can a biologist just name a species without following any standard rule such as having a genus and a species for each animal, plant or protozoa they encountered? Of course not. If you don’t follow standards, you will be considered unscientific and unreliable. The same goes with research methodologies. Researchers should conduct their research in a similar fashion to verify findings.

Now, there is a popular trend involving netizens, not only well-trained scientists, in discovering and learning things around them called bioblitz (see Project Noah) . In military terms, blitz means an intensive sudden attack. In this instance, bioblitz just means an intensive  quick inventory of all living organisms in a designated area, which may be a natural park or any ecosystem, for a set period.

I have been doing this approach in my class whenever we have field trips for many years to help them familiarize with and appreciate nature. It’s simply exploration and documentation of wild plants and animals in their habitat.

Honing Research Skills through Self-Study

Despite the standards required by science, one’s curiosity in examining more closely things around him can be enough motivation to unravel some mysteries. In my case, I learned to love research work long before I finished my graduate degree. Similarly, my love for computerized statistical analysis as a research tool arose out of pure curiosity and fascination in seeing how computers easily make the calculations once data has been entered.

In fact, both my research and statistical software analysis skills were developed mainly through self-study. And these skills helped me a lot on those times that I need a good source of income to fund a dire family need.

research kidney
research kidney Image Source: xkcd.com

Publishing Research Results

As a result of my field exposure, I was able to publish and present at least three papers before I finished my studies in the graduate school. Those initial bouts of publication gave me the confidence and the momentum to keep on doing research, not only because of the need to publish for self-fulfillment and career advancement but primarily to help make the world a better place to live in.

What’s the use of research if nobody learns or benefits from it? If you did something useful, publish it, let others know and understand what is at stake. I earlier posted five reasons why you should publish your research findings.

Recently, I was involved in a cross-country study on household adaptation to climate change. That research work became a basis for policy making, to mitigate the effects of climate change especially in vulnerable coastal areas the southeast Asian region. It is titled Economic Analysis of Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in Selected Coastal Areas in Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. Exposures like this bring me closer to the unfortunate, as there are many things to do to help the marginalized fishers and farmers rise up from poverty.

Learning from Experience

I never thought I would engage in research as I never had any exposure on how this works until I joined a crocodile conservation facility. My constant field work, which required looking into the ecology of crocodiles, shaped my present life.

Although I am no longer studying crocodiles as I am not a herpetologist, I learned a lot from my experience. I was able to publish, not because of formal study, but because I realized I love the excitement of discovery and was excited to share it.

To cap it all up, although a formal study will enable you to do research, what really matters is your unending passion to discover, scrutinize, unravel, innovate, and learn from what you are doing. There are those who finished their graduate work as a requirement, but many failed to do any research after getting their degree.

© 2013 July 25 P. A. Regoniel