Creative Thinking in Research

By

Lex Librero, PhD

Professor emeritus

UP Open University

 

I’m not an expert on creative thinking in research, but I wish to share somebody else’s ideas about it that I happen to agree with. These ideas are old ones, though.

More than six years ago, on February 14, 2013, Eva Lantsoght wrote a blog item in the graduate hacker website (https://www.graduatehacker.com). At the time the blog item was published, Ms. Lantsoght was a PhD student in structural engineering at Deft University of Technology in The Netherlands. So, by now she must have earned her PhD degree. Her blog article was titled Four Common Misconceptions on Creative Thinking in Research.

Research, Ms. Lantsoght said, is a creative activity and there are many misconceptions about it. Here are four common ones.

One, creative thinking in research requires a lot of time. No, not always. Of course an entire research project, say, a doctoral dissertation, requires a lot of collective time. In fact, most dissertation students need three or four semesters to complete their dissertations. However, one doesn’t continuously perform the series of activities that would complete a dissertation at one go. Certain aspects such as reviewing the literature, collecting data, or doing data analysis, etc. are done usually at different times when the researcher feels like doing those activities. These are bursts of energies, which are also usually bursts of creative juices. Such happen sometimes on continuing basis but most of the time they happen in brief periods of time. For example, having done some data analysis, a researcher at any time could actually suddenly have a flash of idea and would then proceed to interpret data and results of data calculations. This could last briefly or drag out on and off for longer periods of time.

Two, don’t be influenced by anyone. Terrible mistake. There are those who say that you should do your research without any interference from others. That’s how you keep your research results pure and perhaps come up with a different and new knowledge, they would contend. The truth is, a new knowledge is rarely a result of one, single study. All researchers build-up on the works of others so that not one could claim full ownership to an entire new knowledge.

Three, devote all your time solving your research problem. Actually, you would be better-off doing many other things not related to your research, especially when you don’t feel like working on it. Forcing yourself to produce something if you don’t feel like it is a negative approach to research creativity. Find time to do and enjoy other things, even if you might feel that these are remotely or not related at all to your research. You need to rest your mind so it can be free to pursue other things that are even outside the box. Sometimes, these would contribute immensely to new interpretations of data and ideas.

Four, have a clear sense of where you are going. Yes, but many others think that this is not always the case. This could prove to be a problem at times. Perhaps one of the best pieces of advise on this matter is one that might be the most difficult to achieve — rid yourself of your current knowledge and ideas about the topic. Conceivably, research means you’re doing an activity to discover something that no one else has found before. So, you’re actually looking into something you do not necessarily know about. Under this circumstance, you don’t have standards and procedures to follows. Just your own ideas about what it is that you are doing or looking for.

Then, again, I could be dead wrong on these.

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