What is good research?

As I mentioned recently, I’m taking ETEC 500 – a course about research methodology – in the UBC Master of Educational Technology program.

One of the first assignments is to write some thoughts, without having read the course text, about what good research is. Well, I can do that without any problem, since I just ordered the book from Amazon. Used, by the way, and about a quarter of the price at the university bookstore.

So: what is good research?

One: important
Well, first off, I think good research has to be about good issues. In other words, it needs to be about something interesting, relevant, and important. If it’s not, what’s the point?

(Oh, tenure – I forgot. Sorry.)

Two: honest
Secondly, it simply has to be honest. What I mean is, the researcher doesn’t have ulterior, hidden motives. Maybe it’s a little old-fashioned, but research should ideally be something that gets us a little piece of that capital T truth. The research certainly can adopt a position – that’s known as a premise – and seek to prove or disprove it. Realistically, the researcher can probably not avoid doing so. We all have our biases. But, as much as possible, prejudices should be public.

Three: accurate
Third, good research is accurate. It’s carefully conducted with integrity and reported with a high standard of professional ethics. In other words, the researcher is not fraudulent, like Hwang Woo-suk, the scientist who falsified stem-cell research at Seoul National University.

Four: reviewed
Fourth, good research is peer-reviewed. That might be in a journal, it might be at a conference, and these days, it might be in an online forum, but in some way other scientists who are knowledgeable in the field must have a chance to critique a study.

Five: ???
That’s about all that’s coming off the top of my head. What else should be here?