Is Perfect Research Possible?
An interesting question once posed to me was “Is there such a thing as perfect research?” My initial reaction to this question was a definitive “no” but was my reaction made in haste? Can perfect research actually be accomplished—and, perhaps more importantly, how does one define “perfect research”?
Of course, research is conducted by human beings and human beings are, not only imperfect, they are also creatures with opinions and biases. These biases are shaped by facts, of course, by also by one’s environment, one’s upbringing, one’s knowledge base, and one's experiences. No matter how objective an individual is, biases are going to show up. Even this paper, being conducted to determine if perfect research is a myth or not, is conducted with a bias. I, the writer, have a bias that perfect research is not possible and it is framing my opinion as I write. It’s framing the sources I choose to include in this paper and even which sources I consult in the first place. Now, my goal is to give an honest study and provide you, the reader, with an honest answer and analysis of my own research on the subject of research. Yet, it will be impossible for my bias to be completely taken out of the equation. This problem is compounded even more by the fact that the research conducted to write this paper was conducted by biased humans, and by the fact that the question at hand is not one of fact but of opinion, and, therefore, cannot be proven or dis-proven.
Whew. Alright. Lets get started.
I am obviously not the only one to ask these questions. While searching for information for this topic, I found two articles with the exact same title by two different authors and each came to vastly different conclusions. The first author, using the name MSHOBY wrote in his blog on Writinghood that there are two different types of research, primary and secondary. While this is fairly common knowledge, his conclusions were certainly interesting. MSHOBY concluded that primary research, research conducted from scratch, is conducted without the benefit (or hindrance) of secondary materials. As such, he claims that this research can be perfect because it was conducted for a specific purpose by a specific company or individual.
This argument is flawed. While the use of secondary sources can lead to imperfect results due to the fact that the motives and intentions of those sources could lead to biased or slanted research, the same can occur with primary research.
Even scientific research can be flawed
Even scientific research, with its adherence to laws and order, can be flawed. It took decades for Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to be accepted as fact and a large reason for this was due to the fact that Einstein’s research was flawed and his theory had to be rewritten several times. He began his research with incorrect data and did not discover this until well into the research process, adding years to his work of proving his theory (Einstein).
As an example of nonscientific research imperfection, let’s pretend that I have invented a product that walked dogs automatically, without the need for human interaction with the dog. If I wanted to sell this product, I would focus the analysis of my research on the convenience of the product. I would not include, in my final research analysis, the added health benefits to the dog owner in walking its own pet versus having a machine do it. It’s likely I wouldn’t even do any research on the health aspect of walking a dog at all, since I would assume that this research would undermine the benefits of my product. Even if I were to conduct such research, I would likely slant it or minimize it to further my own agenda. Primary research can be just as imperfect—if not more so—then secondary research because it is usually conducted with a clear motive or intention.
Others agree with me, including Deepti Korwar, a blogger for Scienceray. He states on this blog that “Two people can claim completely opposite results of a topic because of the varying test data or differing environment [that they live in.]” This quote backs up the statements I made to begin this paper and is quite apropos especially considering some of the sources I am using in my analysis. One author (MSHOBY) staunchly claims that perfect research is possible while the other, dealing with the same question, claims perfect research is not possible (Korwar).
In conclusion, we have taken a brief journey into the world of research and attempted to answer the question of whether or not perfect research can be conducted. Due to the limits of space, we have not attempted to define perfect research, only to determine its possibility. It is this author’s opinion, and it is backed up by evidence from outside sources, that even careful research is not imperfect and is often biased. Therefore, I conclude that perfect research is not possible.
Einstein: The Man behind the Theory. Dir. Ken Druckerman. The History Channel, 2009. Film
Korwar, Deepti “There is no hope of doing perfect research. Do you agree?” Scienceray. Scienceray. May 13,2010
Mshoby. “There is no hope of doing perfect research. Do you agree?” Writinghood. Writinghood. July 30, 2011.
Thanks for Reading.
© 2011 Justin W Price