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Experiment!: Planning, Implementing and Interpreting by Oivind Andersson

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10.6 Tools for Generating Hypotheses

The first step in generating hypotheses is to trace an observed phenomenon back to potential causes. This requires an active imagination. The theoretical framework that you have developed by working in your field will affect how you see and approach research problems. As discussed in the section about creativity in Chapter 5, this tends to make you search for certain types of solutions that give you a sense of familiarity and security. In other words, your expertise tends to close you off from alternative lines of thought. Needless to say, this can be an obstacle when looking for new ideas.

It may seem contradictory to first stress the need for developing a mental map of the research problems in your field and then explain that this map is an obstacle for your thinking. The truth is that creative work is contradictory. To be able to do anything of value you must develop the map and use it, but it is also important to be able to free yourself of this intellectual luggage in situations where fresh thinking is required. Remember that the map is not fixed. It is a product of your own thinking, and thereby varies from the maps of other researchers. It is a dynamic map that changes and grows as you learn from experience.

It is often useful to visualize a problem in different ways. One way to do this is the so-called cause-and-effect diagram, introduced by Kaoru Ishikawa as a quality control tool in the 1960s. Due to its shape it is sometimes called ...

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