Approaches to Research
The SIGCSE 2000 Referee Ratings' Variability Study identifies four areas as affecting paper quality. In decreasing order:
organization and writing
Choosing a Research Topic
Paper significance is the most important factor in ratings, but how to anticipate significance?
Difficult to anticipate what will be most important to others
Do not understate or overstate context, motivation, significance
Typical characteristic of papers by first-year students
Example from hypotentical student paper: Introduction proceeds:
Need to promote human relations, world justice, peace, and harmony
Terrorism presents a counter theme to vision of world salvation
Data collection and organization needed on terrorists to identify threats
Computer networks provide valuable mechanism to collect data
Need to order data to organize information and identify main threats
Arrays provide one way to organize data
Bubble sort one way to order data in arrays
Conclusion: The bubble sort is vital tool to promote world salvation!
Rather little research is truly revolutionary
For most of us, our scholarship provides incremental knowledge in small steps
We may be lucky to have one or two papers of long-term significance throughout our careers
Both comments certainly apply to me; you need to decide if either applies to you
Some evidence that men tend to overstate significance,
women tend to understate
Do NOT blindly emulate experiments or approaches geared for other types of institutions
Your expertise relates to what you know (at your school)
Needs and opportunities for teaching classes of 500 students simply are different from those for classes of 10 students.
Approaches associated with multiple-section courses may be different from those for single-section or alternate-year courses.
Identify a topic that addresses a need you observe
Clarify why this is a need
Does need apply only locally or more generally?
Consider appropriate scope of project
One or two labs or classes
One unit within a course
A major section of a course
A new approach or focus for an entire course
A new emphasis, a shift of content, or new pedagogy for several courses
Work within your resources (time, equipment, energy, other commitments, local constraints)
created September 2, 2003
last revised October 22, 2003