Research and forensic investigations

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Research and forensic investigations

Postby Richard » 15 Jan 2018 08:46

One metaphor for research is that it's like a detective trying to solve a crime - think CSI. Do you agree with this?
How is research similar to and different from the processes used in CSI?
What can researchers learn from forensic investigators?
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Valerie » 15 Jan 2018 16:00

Instead of CSI can some of us rather think in terms of Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie? :p
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Valerie » 15 Jan 2018 16:15

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Last edited by Valerie on 15 Jan 2018 16:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Valerie » 15 Jan 2018 16:15

"A complete criminal investigation can include searching, interviews, interrogations, evidence collection and preservation and various methods of investigation." :?
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Valerie » 15 Jan 2018 18:49

"At least I have got a grip of the essential facts of the case. I shall enumerate them to you, for nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person, and I can hardly expect your co-operation if I do not show you the position from which we start." (The Adventure of Silver Blaze) ≈ discussing/sharing ideas, dissemination.
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby stevelouw » 17 Jan 2018 09:24

To me, data analysis is like an investigation. The answer is there, but it's hidden away by the clutter of other things, and it's only be carefully labeling, organizing and scrutinizing of what you have, that you can see what is there. Like an investigator, a researcher needs to have an idea of what is being looked for, and then the patience to sift through all the information available, looking at it from different perspectives or in different ways (through a microscope for an investigator, or Antconc for a researcher) until the patterns emerge. I remember with my PhD feeling completely stumped during the analysis phase because I couldn't see the pattern - even after had sent the data for an autopsy!

The data collection phase is also like investigation actually. In the Agatha Christie novels, a large portion of the book is often given to Poirot or Ms. Marple chatting with (interviewing) the possible suspects. It's often a little detail here or there which ends up being a crucial insight at the end, and as a reader I glossed over it, being the poor investigator that I am. In collecting data, being willing to spend time with your participants, and identifying important data that needs to be captured might also be a valuable part of what a researcher needs to do.
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Eric Ambele » 24 Jan 2018 09:34

I'd say that research, in many ways and at different stages of the research process is similar to a detective trying to solve a crime. At the data collection stage, for example, where one has to decipher (through rigorous techniques and strategies) what data one should be collecting and whether (or not) it will be useful for the research goal - similar to 'trying to solve a crime' :). This has implications for what is finally suitable for analysis and the findings obtained thereafter.
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Sachiko » 24 Jan 2018 12:05

Hi there,
I really enjoyed reading how each of you described research using a crime metaphor. I can also think of our research investigation in a sense that a detective, going through one area of information to look for a clue, ends up 'oh men! Having spent all this time and effort, I still find nothing!'
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Sayamol » 24 Jan 2018 19:07

I'm not a fan of CSI but watch some other detective/crime series. I think the similarities between doing research and solving a crime are that both require systematic data collection and analysis. In conducting research, as you all know, collecting data is not just picking up anything randomly. We need to be selective on how, when, where we should collect them. It's the same for collecting testimony in detective work. Police may start by looking for related persons or things but then they need to narrow down the list of their witnesses or evidence for thorough investigation. In terms of analysis, researchers, as well as the police, have to think about appropriate approaches and methods to analyze the data (witnesses/evidence) in hand to get the most reliable (or valid) results.
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Re: Research and forensic investigations

Postby Richard » 29 Jan 2018 07:43

I find it interesting that the replies focus on similarities in procedures (both require searching, interviews, interrogations, evidence collection and preservation and various methods of investigation, discussing/sharing ideas, dissemination, patience to sift through all the information, looking at the data from different perspectives, decipher (through rigorous techniques and strategies) what data one should be collecting, systematic data collection and analysis, think about appropriate approaches and methods to analyze the data).

Most of these focus on the data collection and analysis stages, but I found the point about the need to discuss/share ideas useful. Is this the purpose of PhD supervisions?

One further similarity involves how to make conclusions. In detective or legal novels, we hear about proof beyond a reasonable level of doubt. In research, we find quotes such as "By convention (i.e. simply by common agreement among researchers), a reasonable level of doubt about the truth of a theory is one chance in twenty (5%, or a probability of 0.05)". So, in a trial, is a jury in effect testing a hypothesis at a certain level of significance?

The areas which are still missing from this discussion seem to me to be the differences, and whether research and forensic investigations have different philosophies. For instance, detectives usually believe that there is a single correct answer (i.e. the culprit who committed the crime); do researchers hold this belief?
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