This colorful PDF shows you how to frame your new research as the solution to a problem

This PDF infographic shows how to apply the “F.I.N.E.R.” criteria to your research idea

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Why is important to do new and exciting research? 


We are all doing some form of ‘research’ every day.

It might be formal research, such as collecting and analyzing data or participating in trials. Or, it might be informal research, such as helping people in your clinical daily rounds, or reading about developments in your field.

When it comes time to publish our findings for the world, why is it important for our research to be new and exciting?

Want to step outside the researcher ‘bubble’? Start with ONE basic question!


One key starting point for all research projects should be this question: 
How will this work address a question that affects the lives of normal people? 

In fact, this is a common question in job interviews – it is something worth keeping in mind!

Fundamentally, we do research because we are interested in finding out the answers to questions that matter to us. We want to satisfy our own interest and curiosity. This is good! It inspires and motivates us to push harder and discover new things.

But we must also address the research questions that potentially have the chance to change the lives of others. New and innovative research solves real-world problems — questions that matter to people outside of our ‘researcher bubbles’.

What is ‘good’ research? (How to be F.I.N.E.R.!)

Almost all the research we do builds on earlier work. Standing on the shoulders of those who have come before. Fundamentally, new research should meet the F.I.N.E.R. criteria for designing projects:

  • Feasible — would it be practical and do-able?
  • Interesting — would it be interesting to readers, editors, and to the researchers (you)?
  • Novel — would new knowledge be found that builds on past research?
  • Ethical — would be safe for humans, animals, and the environment? 
  • Relevant — would this research study address current needs in society?

A research problem you select must be both challenging and original as well as potentially achievable by your team. 

It’s also important to try to select research questions that are not simply incremental: a small change or advance on an existing study which leads to no lasting scientific insight. 

Incremental research will lead to you and your group gaining a ‘mediocre’ reputation and will therefore affect your ability to win research grants and get your work published in leading journals in the figure.

What are some key GOALS of new research?

 

New research seeks to confirm work done before, either by replication of by using a new or modified method. We are aiming to solve outstanding problems, either ones that are issues in our fields or ones that have not been addressed in earlier work.

 

Perhaps the problem you’ve identified with your work has not been addressed before in earlier work; it might have been missed or ignored by earlier workers. These are ‘hooks’ you can use to develop new papers. 

 

You might be extending existing work, or setting your current data in a new context – perhaps with new samples or information.

 

You might be correcting a flaw, an issue or problem, you’ve seen in an earlier piece of research (but be careful in this case, as comments on the work of other authors are often viewed in a negative light). Aim for positive, rather than negative, contributions to the literature in your field if possible.

 

New work done by your team might refute past research, provide new insights on old questions or solve a problem noticed in earlier work. 

 

Improvements to older published work (presented in a positive way to readers) are also very welcome outcomes of new research. You might have a better design, a longer follow-up duration, more samples, additional patient information, or a different selection of variables.

What you’re aiming for though, above all, is research that solves a completely new problem, makes a major step forward to the literature in your field.
 

How can I decide on a new research project?

 

1. Identify a general research area

You need to select the general area for your research. This will usually be determined by your previous work and experience. Or, it may be a new area that you want to branch into, ideally at least somewhat related to work you have already done.

2. Decide on a research problem

The next step is to identify a problem needs to be addressed. This will almost certainly require literature work, but the idea may arise from:

  • Discussions you’ve had with colleagues 
  • Discussions at a conference
  • A paper you have read

3. Carry out further search for information

  • Locate relevant books, papers and other materials
  • Evaluate the quality and authority of the information collected
  • Maintain regular literature review throughout the project
  • Make regular notes on background material
  • Decide on how this literature search will be carried out within the research group, and how information gained will be disseminated to the group  (e.g., via each researcher carrying out a regular literature review in their sub-area and information disseminated at group meetings or via e-mail at regular intervals)

Conclusion


Don’t just sit around and wait for ‘inspiration’ to come in a ‘eureka’ moment. Instead, by following the steps outlined above, you can CREATE the inspiration for your next great research idea! 

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