Yesterday I attended an interesting seminar at which Prof Vernon Trafford spoke on the topic: “Thinking like a researcher: A target for candidates and challenge for supervisors”. I also made a few comments but afterwards thought that this requires a post.
Prof Trafford described how post-grad students start off by focusing on description: overviews of the literature, description of data, but as they grow the analysis becomes more integrated. He talked of exhibiting episteme: thinking like a researcher within systems of ideas.
The research process consists of a number of steps: paradigm, approach, methodology, method, instruments. Prof Trafford argued that more time should be spent on the first two parts. Since these do not come naturally to many economists, so I will add a brief explanation:
The dissertation or thesis makes visible the reading, thinking, reading and analysis. It should show the linkages between components of the research process.
Prof Trafford also discussed the components of “doctorateness”…
But how do post-grad students get to the point where they think like researchers and what do supervisors do to help them to get there?
Prof Trafford argued that thinking like a researcher is behavioural, rather than technical. He emphasized the importance of academic engagement. He encourages post-grads to grab all opportunities to make their thinking visible. That means discussing it with a supervisor and with other post-grads, presenting at seminars and conferences, writing papers while you are busy with the big book. It is about demonstrating and defending your work.
Now you just need to go and book your spot at the next colloquium!