Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
—Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” 51
In May’s issue, I wrote about the importance of starting your research plan with a focused question based on known information. Doing so significantly increases the chances you’ll achieve your research goal as well as the efficiency with which you’ll reach it. Adhere to that advice consistently, and you will absolutely be a better researcher.
But I am nothing if not a bundle of contradictions. And I certainly don’t follow my own advice at every turn. So in this article I make an argument for setting aside at least some time in your research to explore without a focused question, to wander off the beaten path and sniff around, to roam aimlessly until you stumble onto answers you weren’t looking for, sometimes to questions you didn’t know you had.
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