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What makes a good researcher? Is it some undefinable, innate genius, or is it something that we can practice and build upon? If it was just the former, then there would be far fewer innovations in the history of humankind than there have been. A careful look at researchers through the ages reveals that they all have certain attributes in common that have helped contribute to their success.
The characteristics of a good researcher:
They ask questions. An endless thirst for knowledge is what sets the best of the best apart from the others. Good researchers constantly strive to learn more, not just about their own field, but about other fields as well. The world around us is fascinating, be it the physics behind the way light refracts, or the anthropological constructions of our society. A good researcher keeps exploring the world and keeps searching for answers.
2. Analytical ability and foresight
They look for connections. Information is useless without interpretation. What drives research forward is finding meaning in our observations and data. Good researchers evaluate data from every angle and search for patterns. They explore cause and effect and untangle the tricky web that interconnects everyday phenomena. And then take it one step further to ask, ‘What is the bigger picture? How will the research develop in the future?’
They try, try, and try again. Research can be a frustrating experience. Experiments may not pan out how we expect them to. Even worse, sometimes experiments may run smoothly until they are 95% complete before failing. What sets an average researcher apart from a truly good one? The truly good researcher perseveres. They accept this disappointment, learn from the failure, reevaluate their experiment, and keep moving forward.
Teamwork makes the dream work. Contrary to the common perception of the solitary genius in their lab, research is an extremely collaborative process. There is simply too much to do for just one person to do it all. Moreover, research is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary. It is impossible for just one person to have expertise in all these fields. In general, research is conducted in teams, with each researcher having their individual roles and responsibilities. Being able to coordinate, communicate, and get along with team members is a major factor that can contribute to one’s success as a researcher.
They get their message across. Communication skills are an essential asset for every researcher. Not only do they have to communicate with their team members, but they also have to communicate with co-authors, journals, publishers, and funders. Whether it is writing a crisp and effective abstract, presenting at a conference, or writing a persuasive grant proposal to secure research funding, communication appears everywhere in a researcher’s life. The message in the old adage, ‘If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ applies to research too. A discovery could be groundbreaking, but what is the use if the researcher can’t communicate this discovery to the rest of the world?
These are just a few of the skills required by researchers to make it to the top of their field. Other attributes like creativity and time management are also worth mentioning.
Nevertheless, having one or more of these top five characteristics will make the research process smoother for you and increase the chances of positive results. Set yourself up for success by building up these skills, focusing on excellence, and asking for help when you need it. Elsevier Author Services is here to aid you at every step of the research journey. From translation services by experts in the field, to preparing your manuscript for publication, to helping you submit the best possible grant proposal, you can trust us to guide you in your journey to doing great research.