Everything is an experiment

In research, you never know in advance what the answers will be.

You can give your best guess, you can even give a detailed justification for why things should turn out that way.

But whenever you assume you know the results in advance, the universe has a habit of kicking you hard.

Everything is an experiment. It will work out however it works out. The skill then lies in responding to the results, asking more questions, refining your methodology and trying again.

The interesting stuff lies in the unexpected, and it’s when things go wrong that you can develop your skills as a researcher.

So if you are looking for that one big research idea, or that one methodology, you’re doing it wrong because you can’t predict how things will work out. Try something small, treat it as an experiment, and build from there.

2 thoughts on “Everything is an experiment”

  1. Great advice James. I learned to be a better historian by having to adapt to unexpected research results. As they say on the golf course, the best players are not defined by the ability to hit a perfect shot every time, but by the ability to recover from a bad shot when it happens.

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