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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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10.4 Finding Out What is Not Known

The first step of planning is finding out how you can contribute new knowledge to your field. To do this, you must determine the boundaries of the current knowledge. As research papers will not be published if they do not contain new information, it is important to find out how to make a novel contribution. This may seem challenging to new Ph.D. students, since their whole field of research is new to them. As a rough rule of thumb, the first half of your time as a Ph.D. student will be used to reach the research frontier in your area. During the second half you are expected to make “an original contribution to knowledge”, which is what the Ph.D. is awarded for.

Getting familiar with the entire bulk of knowledge accumulated in your field over the years is a formidable or, quite likely, impossible task. You need to be selective. It is important that academic supervisors direct their students to research papers that have been influential. Get the “classics”, read them and reflect on them. You should regularly browse the scientific literature in your field to keep up to date with the latest developments. It is also important to be in touch with your part of the scientific community. The daily discussions with supervisors, other faculty members and more experienced Ph.D. students at your department are important, but it is just as important to listen to their discussions with other researchers. Conversations on a research topic will often give you ...

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