Research Advice from a Former Semi-Finalist

Hello, my name is Omkar, I was a semifinalist in the 2022 Modelling the Future Challenge.

The transition from having an idea to conducting a full-on research project is a great effort. It can be confusing, especially without having a good idea of what direction to go or what methodology to use. The ambiguous project proposal must be transformed through the process of research to reach a corporeal form.

Clearly define what your project proposal entails. What forms of data should you collect? What units should you use, and what is the minimum quantity of units required for reliable results?

Check authorities in their respective fields of research, as well as any well-known large archives. For example, if my project were to be concerned with agriculture, before anything else, I would first examine the archives of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). They are a well-known reliable source to build from. 

After an initial pass for data, organize your information. While you should aim to be organized throughout the Challenge, it is important to dedicate time to just the organization of information. Whether this is physical files and papers – or more likely digital files – when working on the actual modeling and risk analysis portion of the project it is imperative that all the data is well organized.

Devise a nomenclature or inherit the one used in the respective field of research to label all files. Group by similarities, dissimilarities, alphabetical order, or simply whatever is the most logical for a given body of data. This may lead to research on how to organize your research but is not a process that should be trivialized. Before moving on to a more thorough search, ensure all your current data is sorted conveniently and sensibly.

Conduct a more in-depth search. Elementary questioning will only get so far. The limitations of the previous first pass will immediately present themselves. Original projects will struggle to exist in their niche with a lack of specific data and research. The search must expand. Naturally, the internet will likely be the first source you utilize, but this portion of research allows for more unconventional approaches.

Questions can and should be forwarded to local authorities and even to personal connections. Their experience might shed light on difficulties you might be having. Niches of research often have a unique lexicon making them endlessly difficult to traverse for the layman, yet with some assistance from a more experienced mentor, these treasure troves of information become accessible.

This portion of the research can be frustrating. Specific sources are hard to find and often only present a small body of data to look over. When you chase different links in the hopes of a new lead, you can often end up at the same location, a metaphorical Rome. But don’t be disheartened. This struggle is a universal one, and you’re not alone. 

Research is a tough yet fruitful endeavor. Quality research is arduous but it is an integral part of completing the Modeling the Future Challenge project.