Technical questions from grad students on their research

In summary: That's a good point. They probably should have talked to their mentor first, but I don't think they are completely lost.I agree with the first statement, but are they really aware of the risk?
  • #1
Hyperfine
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In my brief time here I have encountered a number of threads that give every indication of being a specific technical question from a grad student on their research. In at least one instance, the conclusion that the question was posed by a grad student is consistent with the poster's profile.

Would the poster not be best served by being advised to address such research questions to their mentor or to the more experienced senior members of their research group? I for one would not be overjoyed were I to learn that one of my students came here for advice on their, and my research rather than to approach me or members of my group.

At the very least, is it reasonable for a responder to such a thread to advise the poster to address the question to their mentor?
 
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  • #2
I think not. There are many possible reasons to go outside of your lab's conceptual bubble for particular issues.

There are also many different ways that the people who run labs run their labs. Some are very controlling, some the opposite.

In a pinch, any good source of information is good.
 
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  • #3
They seem so alone. I feel sorry for them.
 
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  • #4
BillTre said:
In a pinch, any good source of information is good.
I will certainly not argue with that statement. But what if the source, despite the best of intentions, is less than good?
 
  • #5
Hyperfine said:
I will certainly not argue with that statement. But what if the source, despite the best of intentions, is less than good?
You don't have to use that source.
You can look for others.
That's life.
 
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  • #6
Hyperfine said:
I will certainly not argue with that statement. But what if the source, despite the best of intentions, is less than good?
It’s a risk they take. They are describing their situation in a paragraph or two and then ask strangers for advice. I think they are desperate.

I would agree that they are not told to talk to people around them enough, but that should be secondary advice.
 
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  • #7
BillTre said:
You don't have to use that source.
You can look for others.
That's life.
True, but are students coming here, as but one example, with questions regarding their research work sufficiently astute to distinguish good from less that good advice? What is the potential impact of less than good advice that is given and taken on an overall research program?

My thinking on this question is mixed and that confusion is not helping me contribute to discussions here.
 
  • #8
Frabjous said:
It’s a risk they take. They are describing their situation in a paragraph or two and then ask strangers for advice. I think they are desparate.

I would agree that they are not told to talk to people around them enough, but that should be secondary advice.
I agree with the first statement, but are they really aware of the risk?

I tend to disagree with the second statement. I believe it is customary here for responders to directly ask for a citation from the literature in support of points under discussions. How does that differ from a respondent asking if the poster has discussed the question with their mentor or colleagues?
 
  • #9
Hyperfine said:
I agree with the first statement, but are they really aware of the risk?

I tend to disagree with the second statement. I believe it is customary here for responders to directly ask for a citation from the literature in support of points under discussions. How does that differ from a respondent asking if the poster has discussed the question with their mentor or colleagues?
A surprisingly number of poster’s take it personally when we ask for technical details. I believe that it will be even worse when we ask about what they are doing in their lives.

While it seems amazing that they have not talked to people around them, I think we should show some respect to their judgement in posting the question. We do not know everything that they do.
 
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  • #10
Fair points. I would just hate to contribute negatively to someone's research. And I do not like to see the apparent level of desperation that seems to be involved.
 
  • #11
Hyperfine said:
Fair points. I would just hate to contribute negatively to someone's research. And I do not like to see the apparent level of desperation that seems to be involved.
I do have some sympathy for your position which is why I made the suggestion of talking to the locals as secondary advice.
 
  • #12
Hyperfine said:
I agree with the first statement, but are they really aware of the risk?
They can always ask an AI instead. :wink:
 
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  • #13
Part of getting a PhD is learning how to sort out good information from bad and critically think about their research (maybe I’m being too idealistic).

Also, at some point in your PhD, you become the expert on whatever you’re researching, and you also become pretty aware of where your mentor’s and colleagues’ expertise lie (and don’t lie). For instance, when I was in grad school, I was in a lab that did mostly spectroscopy. During the course of my research, I had to do some rather involved organic syntheses. My mentor and colleagues averaged a 75% yield transferring coffee from a pot to a mug, so I didn’t consult them for advice. They weren’t offended.
 
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  • #14
Thank you all for your replies.
 
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  • #15
1. I don't think you are going to solve this problem in the general case.

2. A good question might be "when you asked your advisor. what did he say?" "He said to use Methods X or Y, and I can see how X would work but not Y" would then give PF a sense of direction in how to help."
 
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  • #16
Vanadium 50 said:
1. I don't think you are going to solve this problem in the general case.
Clearly not. But this exchange has helped me determine how I individually will respond, or not respond to such questions.
Vanadium 50 said:
2. A good question might be "when you asked your advisor. what did he say?" "He said to use Methods X or Y, and I can see how X would work but not Y" would then give PF a sense of direction in how to help."
I agree that would be a reasonable question to pose at the outset. I also think it would be reasonable to explicitly warn the poster of the possible risks associated with an answer to what I shall call an incomplete set of circumstances from an anonymous person with undefined credentials.

And thanks to you as well for your comments.
 
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  • #17
I have recommended "ask your advisor/colleagues/collaborators" in one way or another in many comments. Sometimes as only recommendation, if I see no way to answer the question outside, otherwise together with a technical answer if possible.

Feedback is rare, sometimes they ask and get help there, sometimes they reply that the advisor isn't helpful at all and/or they don't know who to ask. In that case the problem is much deeper than their specific research question of course.
 
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Related to Technical questions from grad students on their research

How do I choose an appropriate research methodology for my study?

Choosing the right research methodology depends on your research question, objectives, and the nature of the data you need. Start by determining whether your study is qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods. Review existing literature to see what methodologies have been used in similar studies. Consider factors such as sample size, data collection methods, and analysis techniques. Consulting with your advisor and other experienced researchers can also provide valuable insights.

What statistical software should I use for data analysis?

The choice of statistical software depends on your specific needs and the complexity of your data. Commonly used software includes SPSS, R, SAS, and Stata. R is highly flexible and powerful for complex analyses but has a steeper learning curve. SPSS is user-friendly and suitable for basic to intermediate statistical analyses. SAS and Stata are robust options for more advanced statistical work. Your choice may also depend on what software is available at your institution and your own familiarity with the tools.

How can I ensure the validity and reliability of my research?

To ensure validity, make sure your research design accurately addresses your research questions. Use well-established measurement instruments and techniques, and ensure your sample is representative of the population. For reliability, ensure consistency in your data collection process, and use techniques like test-retest, inter-rater reliability, and internal consistency measures. Peer reviews and pilot studies can also help identify and rectify potential issues.

What are the best practices for managing and organizing research data?

Effective data management is crucial for the integrity of your research. Use a consistent and logical naming convention for files and folders. Create a detailed data management plan that outlines how data will be collected, stored, and backed up. Use reliable storage solutions, such as institutional servers or cloud storage with appropriate security measures. Document all data processing steps thoroughly, and consider using data management software to keep everything organized.

How do I write a compelling research proposal?

A compelling research proposal should clearly articulate the significance of your research question, the objectives of your study, and the methodology you will use. Start with a strong introduction that captures the reader's interest and provides background information. Clearly define your research problem, hypotheses, or research questions. Provide a detailed methodology section, and explain how your research will contribute to the field. Include a timeline and a budget if required, and ensure your proposal is well-organized and free of errors.

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