In doing research, the first question to ask yourself is whether it is even a researchable question to begin with. As John Aubrey (an early chronicler of the British Royal Society) put it, “Dr. Pell was wont to say that in the Solution of Questions, the Maine Matter was the well-stating of them; wch. requires mother-witt and Logick…; for let the question be but well-stated, it will worke almost of itselfe.” Not all questions are empirical questions, but all experimental questions must be.
So, the first step is to apply a rational model to the data at hand. One constructs a theory from the gaps revealed by this preliminary analysis (as Julian Freund puts it, “Whatever method we use, we can only impose an order of relationships on reality, not exhaust it.”) There are several rules and conventions which most of us in science apply to determine whether or not the resulting theory is well-formed.
© 1996 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 11 March 2005