What are you trying to find out?

You are undertaking research, attempting to add to the sum of human knowledge: what does that mean?

In the Systems Integration Initiative, in my guidance on formulation of a 'case for support' I exhort researchers to clarify their research objectives, to articulate their 'hypothesis', and to identify their research questions. But even when I find these things, they are often done according to the letter of the advice, but not the spirit. Assuming this is not deliberate disingenuousness, I attempt here to explain that intended spirit.

On Research Objectives - and Research Questions - and Research Hypotheses - in which I try to explain how to formulate research intentions in such a way that others - especially referees - will understand what your 'contribution to knowledge' might be. You might even find it helps you too.

On Knowledge - it is so easy, when you start to consider what it means to contribute to scientific knowledge, to get hung up on what knowledge is - how you know what you know, whether you really know what you think you know, ... See what I mean? Here I take a 'pragmatic' view of knowledge, which I believe to be appropriate for engineering research, and which doesn't require that we decide whether the table in front of us is there when we are not looking.

On Epistemology - here I acknowledge some of the other positions one might adopt other than 'pragmatism'.

I realise that I am trying to summarise millennia of philosophising in a couple of pages. This is my present, personal, perspective. It is NOT definitive, and it will doubtless evolve as folk point out to me the errors of my ways of thinking.

One day I hope to expand this into a book spanning all kinds of knowledge - not just natural science and engineering, but everything from baking a cake to 'socially constructed' knowledge. So, if you find this material useful or interesting, maybe you would like to make a donation to this cause via the button below.

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