What Sort of Questions do You Want to Answer?

Lakehead’s Undergraduate Research Journal, The Post, tells us why research is for everyone.
By Katharine Beaulieu

research-article_what-kind-of-questionsWell, here we are again, diving into another academic year. Brains are buzzing (or soon will be) with new research ideas and the big questions of the cosmos.

In an age where the Internet is at our fingertips, where Google is only a quick voice command to Siri away, we are constantly researching. Is corn a vegetable or a grain?  A quick Google search will tell you that corn is all of a vegetable, a grain, and a fruit. Research done! Is it cheaper to buy a new phone outright or to pay if off monthly through a plan? A slightly more thorough Google search will tell you that in many cases it is actually cheaper to buy a phone outright instead of paying it off monthly with a plan.  It might have a higher up front cost but in the end, you will save money. Research done! Is pizza really considered a vegetable by congress of the United States? Google says no, but it does also discuss the debate about whether two tablespoons or a half cup of tomato paste on a serving of pizza constitutes vegetable status.  Research done! Or rather, research at least started. These are just a few examples of some of the things that we are researching every day.  It might seem inconsequential, but an interested and hungry mind is never inconsequential, even down to a debate about how much tomato sauce constitutes a vegetable.

When people, and students in particular, think about research, they think about toiling away for hours and hours in the library or sifting through dozens of online academic journals. They think about it in terms of scientific experiments and ethical surveys handed out to their peers.  The great thing about research, however, is that it doesn’t have to take on – and in most everyone’s day-to-day life, it does not take on – any of these forms.  Of course there is heavy-duty academic research through which we attack major issues and questions and ideas, but there is also much more minor, but no less important, research that fills our minds with knowledge just the same.

The concept of research and the information and knowledge gleaned from the research process is central to how we live our lives. Research and its fruits is not just about hours spent sitting in a classroom or a library carrel, it is about the understanding and the advancement of knowledge. Every piece of information that we learn may someday help us in some way or another. It might not cure cancer, or create the next super smartphone, or get us in touch with life in another galaxy, but it will always help us make informed decisions (even if it is just whether or not to serve rice and corn in the same meal.)

It is not just the big questions we need to answer then, but the small ones. And no one question is too inconsequential. When you think about your research idea it can be an immediate idea, something that will take a few moments to find out; or it can be a long-term idea, something that leads to a research paper or a thesis or a dissertation. No question is too small or too large. Academia has taught us to believe that research is about hard work, and it is, but it’s also about an innocent and powerful thirst for knowledge, large and small. This year, while you’re pursuing your studies, take a moment to think about the ways in which you engage in research.  Think about the Google search you did last night and the book you checked out of the library this morning. Write down your research ideas and become aware of how important it is in your every day life. Research isn’t just for high academics; research is for everyone. Maybe, one of those seemingly inconsequential research ideas will become something more: an essay, an article, a text – you never know.

With that in mind, feel free to bring yourself and all of your research ideas to Research Wednesdays in RB2028 every week from 1-3pm. Workshop your concept, bounce it back and forth, get input, post it on the Research Wall or just engage in the pursuit of the answer. We can’t wait to see you and your questions there.

Finally, if you don’t already know, The Post is Lakehead University’s undergraduate (and soon to be graduate) research journal and we want to hear about those research ideas and the answers to the big questions of the cosmos. But, we also want to hear about the seemingly less important questions. We want to hear about the questions that are two seconds to answer, that are six pages to answer, and that are twenty pages to answer. We want to know what sort of questions you want to answer, and then we want to help you do that.

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