1.4 About this Book

This book grew out of a need to teach general research competencies. As a Ph.D. student you need to understand how research differs from other activities. If you are working in an experimental field, you need to understand how experimentation differs from other forms of scientific investigation. It is also important to understand the general aspects of collecting and analyzing data. Finally, it is central to understand the scientific process: how to identify research problems, how to approach them, and how to communicate the results in the scientific community. There are good books that cover at least some of these aspects but it would be useful to introduce them in parallel, I thought, between the same pair of covers. It is often difficult for students to fit the pieces together after taking separate courses in the philosophy of science and statistics, for example, especially when the teachers are not experimental researchers themselves. Of course, a single book cannot provide a comprehensive treatment – especially not one as brief as this – but it can serve as a starting point.

The book is organized in two parts. The first part explains different aspects of scientific thinking and the second addresses general methods and techniques that are important to experimenters. The second part often refers to the first, but they can in principle be read separately. It may even be a good idea to skip back and forth between them. Whatever works for you will be fine.

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