Honing Research Skills Through Self-Study: 3 Key Ideas

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 about 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 a springboard for further study.

Nowadays, can a biologist just name a species following no 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 for 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 bio blitz (see Project Noah). In military terms, blitz means an intensive sudden attack.

In this instance, bio blitz 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: 3 Key Points

1. Always Be Curious

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. Self learning is critical in this aspect. I want to dabble on things that I am interested in, and I can figure it out myself through intuitive thinking.

Self education is madepossible if you believe in yourself.

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 I have entered data. Data analysis is a breeze using the statistical software applications like Statistica, SPSS, or even the data analysis function of MS Excel.

While looking for open source statistical software applications, I bumped into SOFA Statistics. Now, I use this powerful tool, particularly when there is a need to use nonparametric statistics. I taught my students how to use it to solve statistical problems. Once they are familiar with it, they loved how it helped them work on their thesis.

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

research kidney
Image Source: xkcd.com

2. Keep Sharing Your Findings

Because of my field exposure, I could 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 of 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 from poverty.

3. Learn from Experience

I never thought I would engage in research, as I had no exposure to 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.

I primarily imbibe new concepts through self learning, and I discovered I learn a lot using the approach of hit-and-miss. But my imagination helps prevent the misses, and be more successful in dealing with issues confronting the learning process.

Although I am no longer studying crocodiles as I am not a herpetologist, I learned a lot from my experience. I could 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 did no research after getting their degree.

Develop your research skills by following these nifty tips and you’re on your way to realizing your potential to help the world become a better place.

© 2023 January 20 P. A. Regoniel