Writing Research Without Performing Research
By Zack Merhavy
So, you’re a tired, burnt-out medical student in your basic sciences who wants to do research – how do you make that happen? You’re probably thinking “I don’t have time to do research” or “I don’t even know where to start”. Well, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish from the comfort of your couch.
When thinking about how research is typically conducted, it can be easy to get lost in a sea of approvals, budget requests, grants, protocols, chain-of-commands, and more. But when going back to the foundational idea of what research is meant to be, it becomes easier to appreciate it for what it should be rather than what it’s typically thought of – adding to the overarching body of existing knowledge. When boiling the term “research” down, you can often come to synonyms like “examine” or “study” or “analysis” or “investigation” and so much more. Research doesn’t have to be some grand multi-million dollar mad-scientist research lab like you see in movies; nor does it have to be a well-funded lab at a university as many of us have previously experienced. Rather, research is all about exploring what’s out there, both known and unknown, to draw conclusions and make connections.
With all the resources we have at our fingertips, learning, studying, and understanding becomes much easier than when our RUSM predecessors were in our shoes. As a student, you have access to sources like PubMed, Google Scholar, the RUSM Library, and so much more. If you’re ever curious about a topic or don’t fully understand one thing’s connection to another, you can begin reading all about it just as easily as watching another episode of your favorite TV show.
In an incredibly boiled down fashion, you can publish research in just 5 steps:
1. Get curious! formulate good questions about your area of interest.
a. “Why do patients with X disease present with seemingly unrelated symptom Y?”
b. “When X enzyme is defective in a patient, what are possible symptoms that can occur?”
2. Dive into the internet and see what’s out there relating to your topic.
3. Start making connections, drawing conclusions, and developing realistic theories.
a. Think about recruiting people you trust like friends, upper classmen, mentors, etc. to help you in the review, writing, & editing processes.
4. Put pen to paper and begin writing the background information and the conclusions you’ve drawn (it helps to structure your paper like similar ones in the field).
a. On the RARS website, you can select the “Resources” tab, and then “Research Resources” to find templates and “How-Tos” for putting a paper together.
5. Make your final edits, find a journal, submit, and enjoy the terrifying peer review process!
Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laboratory
Let Curiosity Strike – Be Inquisitive and Lean In!
If you’re still confused at this point, that’s okay; everyone has to start somewhere. I always recommend that the next time you think of something that gets you excited, write it down. Mull it over during the next few days and try to hypothesize why that happens the way it does. Then, start to expand on that concept and come up with questions that might or might not be known already. Once you know what you’re looking for, head on over to the Library Site, Google Scholar, or whatever your preferred search engine is and start diving in to see if your questions are answered.
Condense What You’ve Learned and Draw Conclusions
Once you’ve begun delving into the world of scientific and medical literature, you have already started the literature review process! From here, you are essentially finding gaps in the existing body of literature or connections that have yet to be made. Often-times, all the pieces are there, but no one has put them together – that someone can be you!
Put It All Together
From the comfort of your own home, you can begin taking all the components you’ve learned from the articles you’ve read and start formulating your own paper to bring those concepts, ideas, or theories together. Before you know it, you’ll have a paper that’s ready to begin the editing and submission process!
So It’s That Easy, Huh?
Now this all sounds great in theory, but what happens if you hit a roadblock? What happens if you’re doing the wrong thing and don’t even know it? What happens if you don’t know if your question is worth asking? What happens if you don’t even know what questions you should be asking? All these questions and confusions are completely normal and totally okay. Like I said earlier, everyone has to start somewhere – ever great researcher who’s ever lived once began not knowing what questions to ask. This is why RARS is a phenomenal resource for you to utilize throughout this process. RARS is always happy and willing to provide assistance, resources, tools, and opportunities any way they can; and they’re here to help you be successful in getting that publication and building your skills as a competent and confident researcher!
So, go out there and let your curiosity run rampant and explore the beast that is science and medicine, and I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish!
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