When conducting research, it’s important to be as accurate as possible. The last thing you want is to invalidate your research because of an error. To help you avoid this, we’ve compiled a list of the most common research errors and how to avoid them. Let’s look at each one.
Not Defining Your Terms
When you’re starting your research, you must take the time to define your terms. What do you mean by “success”? What does “happiness” look like to you? Other people may interpret your terms differently than you do, which can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Write down in your laboratory notebook or research journal what you mean by your terms so that you can refer to them later.
Relying on Secondary Sources
Secondary sources are an important part of the research, but they should never be the only sources you use. When you rely too heavily on secondary sources, you risk regurgitating someone else’s ideas instead of developing your own thoughts and arguments. Make sure to balance your secondary sources with primary sources—such as interviews, surveys, and experiments—so your research is well rounded.
Ignoring Your Biases
We all have biases—it’s only human. However, acknowledge your preferences and try to account for them when conducting research. If you don’t, your biases could lead you to misinterpret data and draw inaccurate conclusions. For example, let’s say you have a bias against a certain political party. If you come across data that reflects well on that party, your bias might lead you to believe that the data is unreliable—even if it isn’t.
Jumping to Conclusions
When you find data that supports your hypothesis, it can be tempting to declare victory right then and there. However, you should resist this urge and continue collecting data until you have significant evidence to support your conclusion. Otherwise, you might have to backtrack later on.
Not Keeping Track of Your Sources
Citing your sources is important for academic integrity and practical purposes. Keeping track of your sources allows other researchers to follow in your footsteps and build upon your work. It also helps prevent accidental plagiarism, which can happen even if you’re not trying to steal someone’s ideas.
Conducting research can be tricky, but by avoiding these most common errors, you can set yourself up for success! Remember: take the time to define your terms; don’t rely too heavily on secondary sources; acknowledge and account for your biases; collect enough data before drawing any conclusions; and keep track of all the sources you use along the way. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to conducting high-quality research!
Scientific Notebook is also here to help! We can help you keep track of your sources with our laboratory notebook with numbered pages, a grid pattern, and easy removal. Whether you’re a student, postdoc, or principal investigator, a laboratory notebook from us can help you stay organized and productive in the lab.