posts tagged “advice”

New methods are key to developing new hypotheses and testing old ones. It would be difficult to imagine social sciences today without regression models, or social network analysis, or online ethnographies. Each has been developed and used to expand what we think that we know about the social world.

Black and white picture of a Victor snap trap
Image by pepperberryfarm via Flickr, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

But social scientists, especially junior researchers, too often fail to justify their new methods. They demonstrate their creativity and document the often considerable work they put into developing their new approach. But scholars should take care that they're not just building a better mousetrap.

In the last step, we downloaded all of our data and deposited into directories that store this source data, backed it up, and write-protected the files. Now that we have done all of that, it is time to start working with the data! There is only one problem: almost inevitably, the data do not come neat, tidy, and ready to use. Often, the data contain major problems and need to be constructed in order to be usable. In this installment, I will write about managing files for cleaning, constructing and storing datasets.

There are several varieties of how the data are not completely usable. For many items in the ...

After establishing where my root directory resides resides, it is time to actually get to work. As with any endeavor, success begins by laying a solid foundation and with academic work that begins foundation is our data.

The most fundamental skill to academic success is asking good questions and acquiring data to answer those questions. Yet, in quantitative research, that skill is useless without the ability to manipulate data into useful formats that are capable of answering the good questions. Data cleaning, construction, and manipulation constitute well over half of my work on major quantitative projects.

It should go without saying, but there are many different types of data. I ...

In my last post, I explained the value of a directory structure: consistent file management structures a disciplined workflow that increases productivity. The magnitude of its importance was a revelation that occurred largely after graduate school as the result of starting a new job.

When I moved to start my new job, I needed to move my files to my new computer. In transferring my files, I realized that my work that followed my well-defined workflow transfered easily, while the work that didn't follow the workflow did not.

The contrast between the ease with which I started the well-structured work and difficulty getting up to speed on disorganized pieces ...

When I say that one of the most important things that I did in graduate school was set up a directory structure and workflow for my files, I am not kidding. Reading theory, learning statistical methods, and writing literature reviews were all important. However, just as important -- though not nearly as sexy -- is setting up a file structure and working directory.

Despite how trivial it sounds, maintaining a well-designed directory structure not only provides a framework for files, it structures productive work.

Given how important it was for me, I will attempt to explain the directory structure that I developed. Let me begin by saying that I am ...

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take." -- Attributed to Wayne Gretzky

I was reminded of this quote this week after I had a grant submission rejected. Although it stung, the criticisms were legitimate and, as one of my advisors told me, "rejection is part of the process." It was this comment that reminded me of Gretzksy's quote and realizing that, although it doesn't feel good to be rejected, it does mean that I made an effort -- I can't make a shot that I don't take after all.

This was a lesson that was hard to learn in grad school and I was fortunate that I had ...