July 08, 2005

Tim Oren on the Research Process

Now here's an interesting version of the research process, well worth repurposing to fit the circumstances of a searcher in a scientific field (though it's cast in Venture Capital terms), from Tim Oren's The Art of the Fast Take:

...every technology and market has a private language. It's built of terms of art, but also names of landmarks such as products, famous papers and projects, labs, and researchers and other experts. To begin to understand the market you need to learn this language. Fortunately, such a distinctive use of language and interlinkage of people and information artifacts is the very best thing you can have to feed Google or other modern search tools.

The posting is about a page and a half, really worth the time to read and cast to fit one's own purposes. A few more bits:
You are looking for reviews or survey articles, as recent as possible. Skim them. Make sure these guy's idea isn't obviously misfit or already common knowledge. But you're mostly looking for more names, particularly of analysts, technologists or researchers who are commonly quoted... You're looking for competitive analysis, and also for corporate white papers. The latter will be 'spun', of course. What you're trying to extract are the key competitive issues, current and envisioned, and the code phrases used by the various competitors to tout their advantages and diss the opposition. You may strike out on the analysts if it really is a nascent area... With luck, you'll know someone on the list, or have a mutual friend. Buy a couple of lunches... Somewhere, there is a good argument going on in this field. Go find it. It may be on blogs, mailing lists, or at conferences, but it's likely to have an online presence and perhaps an archive. Read as much as you can handle, taking careful note of people and company names... Get a big piece of paper, your various lists of terms, people, products, etc., and make a network graph, cluster chart, or whatever works for you, noting central issues and people. You're not an expert, but you've now got some of the fundamentals of the technology and the market structure laid out.

OK, so scholarly research isn't business, still less VC activity, but there's a lot here that's just exactly what we'd like our students to internalize as they start to figure out a field or a research area. Nicely done!

Posted by oook at July 8, 2005 10:24 AM