Resources on doing research

Peter Feibelman has written a good short book on doing research, and related skills, A PhD is not enough. The book isn’t online, but there is a nice review by Ross McKenzie, of the University of Queensland.

John Wilkins of Ohio State University has assembled a set of one page guides to various research skills.

David Mermin of Cornell has written a lovely essay on Writing Physics.

Economist Paul Krugman, of Princeton, has written two informative essays about doing research, from somewhat different points of view, How I work and Incidents from my career. Many of the ideas in these essays apply also to research in the physical sciences.


  1. Is Krugman talking about economic theory or string theory?!?

    “If you want to publish a paper in economic theory, there is a safe approach: make a conceptually minor but mathematically difficult extension to some familiar model. Because the basic assumptions of the model are already familiar, people will not regard them as strange; because you have done something technically difficult, you will be respected for your demonstration of firepower. Unfortunately, you will not have added much to human knowledge.”

    I wonder if there are any good scientific historians (or their ilk) who have done research on this effect?

  2. Or, presumably, any other part of science.

    One thing I enjoyed about the essays was Krugman’s emphasis on building simple but informative models. I’m reading Ashcroft and Mermin at the moment, and he could easily be talking about condensed matter physics.

    I find it interesting that this kind of model building doesn’t happen much in quantum information. Probably the best example of such model building I can think of would be Kitaev’s codes.

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