In this post I will return to a topic that I have worked on in previous ones and that are related to my work in the teaching of Scientific Research Methodology. In particular, I take the opportunity to translate some notes I had written to explain the writing of the research objectives.
At the time I published this in Spanish (See original in spanish), I did it in response to a student's query, a time has passed, but I think the content remains valid and can be useful to work, so I translate it to give it greater diffusion
Recently, a person asked me about a way to elaborate the objectives of an investigation, specifically for a quantitative approach that pursued a descriptive level of a phenomenon and its relations with other significant events. Understanding that the question was not due to lack of knowledge, but because of problems for the organization of data and information that would make it possible to establish a work program or a specific methodology, I tried to answer it by going to a fairly basic reading, but always useful for these cases: The Speech of the René Descartes Method (1596-1650)
Descartes, in the Second part of the Discourse on the Method, sets out the principles from which he guides his reasoning to address any search for knowledge, these aree four:
- He was te first, not to admit as true anything, as he did not know with evidence that it is; that is to say, to carefully avoid precipitation and prevention, and not to understand in my judgments anything other than what was presented so clearly and distinctly to my spirit, that there was no occasion to douubt it.
- The secod, to divide each of the difficulties, which I will examine, in how many parts it is possible and in how many would require its best solution.
- The third, orderly conduct my thoughts, starting with the simplest and easiest objects to know, to gradually ascend, gradually, to the knowledge of the most composed, and even assuming an order among those that do not precede naurally.
- And the last one, to do in all such comprehensive accounts and such general reviews, that he would be sure not to omitnything.
e canan simplify that in order to start everything must be screened for its own reason and avoid "fundamentalisms" without prior examination of its validity or truthfulness, then (and this is already more tending towards the operation of the investigation) it is about marking the goal of knowledge to be achieved, also identifying the knowledge that is prior and necessary for the achievement or mastery of the content in question, then it is necessary to establish a functional and logically valid order for the study, taking the most simple and accessible things up to more complex and difficult for the work to be done. It ends all in achieving in each stage a complete knowledge of its results, in order to complete everything and achieve the knowledge that is beingought.
These ininstructions can certainly be accused of being tending to the specialization or division of knowledge (whose real problem would be rather castrating or limiting super-specialization to integrate content), but it cannot be denied that they give a good orientation of how Begin the search for knowledge within a quantitative approach. Then, in this same section of the Speech, Descartes expresses the usefulness of the rules that were applied:
And, indeed, I dare to say that the exact observation of the few precepts chosen by me, gave me such ease to unravel all the questions that these two sciences deal with, that in two or three months I used to examine them, having begun by the simplest and most general, and being every truth that I found a rule that later served me to find others, not only did I manage to solve several questions, which I had previously considered as very difficult, but it even seemed to me, towards the end, that, Even in those he ignored, he could determine by what means and how far it was possible to solve them. In which, perhaps you will not accuse me of excessive vanity if you consider that, assuming there is but one truth in everything, the one who finds it knows everything that can be known about it; and that, for example, a child who knows arithmetic and makes a sum according to the rules, can be sure that he has found, about the sum he was examining, all that the human ingenuity can find; because, after all, the method that teaches to follow the true order and to recount exactly all the circumstances of what is sought, contains everything that confers certainty to the rules of arithmetic.
But what pleased me most in this method was that, with him, I was sure to use my reason in everything, if not perfectly, at least the best that was in my possession. Not to mention that, by applying it, I felt that my spirit gradually became accustomed to conceiving objects with greater clarity and distinction and that, having not subjected it to any particular subject, I promised to apply it with equal fruit to the difficulties of other sciences, as I had done to those of algebra. (The underline is mine, to highlight what I need from this quote)
The end of the previous quotation expresses to a large extent an idea applicable to everything that is taught in scientific research methodology for any university career, since what is sought is the formation of a scientific thought that the student (and future professional) is able to use in all aspects of his life, which would aim to verify the reliability of his sources before lightly accusing, observe the phenomena and actors that surround him and establish potential interpretations of his intentions and actions, communicate neatly and clearly your ideas with economy of language and precision in your words. But above all, remember that your university education necessarily implies the use of the logic of Science, the Scientific Method and a critical and reflective position about the world.