Welcome to Notre Dame

What am I?



COVID, Zoom, Slack.

Most lectures require pre-reading – short typed assignment.

Why am I teaching this course?

A PhD is a 5 year apprenticeship where you learn to do research with an advisor. Try to solve a problem (maybe two)

But before you can really get started there is a lot to learn. My goal is to help other faculty by giving a crash course in the basics of research.

From my perspective**

Always (always) defer to your advisor – they will know your particular field better than I.

Students spend lots of time thinking “what problem am I going to solve in my PhD?”

Advisor often assigns a problem to a student based on a funded grant project.

Usually the advisor knows what they’re doing, but really they are hoping you know what you’re doing.

Early on in their PhDs, students have a difficult time understanding their project. It’s important to know:

  • What is the problem?
  • How can I find out more about it? What Google keywords should I use?
  • What do we already know about it
  • What don’t we know?
  • How do I survey the literature?
  • What does “improvement” look like?
  • How do I know my solution is correct?
  • How do I present this research?
  • How do I write about this research?

Why do you want to go to graduate school?

My goals of this course are for you to learn:

  • How to start a research project and follow a plan
  • How to read research papers
  • How to apply statistics correctly
  • How to communicate
    • How to argue, present, write cogently
    • How to write convincingly
    • How to review others research
    • How to become a successful professional

What is Research?

  1. It is systematic, investigative process by which our knowledge about the universe is improved and refined.
  2. Two general categories:
    1. Basic research aimed at increasing general scientific knowledge
    1. Applied research aimed at solving problems or developing new processes, products, tools, or techniques.

What about the next 5 years worries you the most?

What does it take to become a successful scientific professional?

  • Work ethic – research is hard work
  • Resiliency – you will fail, many times. Successful PhD students are resilient.
  • Creative – the best research papers are the ones that are new.
  • Good Communicator – It is critical that you read, write, and present clearly and interestingly.

These are the objectives of the course:

  1. Introduce and discuss concepts in research methodology, empirical analysis, and the scientific enterprise in computing.
  2. Prepare students for conducting research by examining how to plan, conduct, and report on empirical investigations.
  3. Introduce core steps of a research project, including formulating research questions, theory building, data analysis (using both qualitative and quantitative methods), building evidence, assessing validity, and publishing.
  4. Students will have a working understanding if principle research methods used to study human interaction with computer technology including controlled experiments, case studies, surveys, archival analysis, action research and ethnographies.
  5. Students will also understand pertinent topics in peer review, ethical obligations involving human subjects research, how to give a scientific presentation, and how to write research papers, survey papers, and funding proposals

Eddington’s Two Tables

Arthur Eddington describes two tables:

  1. The table you have in front of you. It has a weight, shape, color, and lots of properties. We can put books upon the table, etc.
  2. From a different perspective this same table is actually made up of atoms, which are actually mostly empty space. We can’t actually touch the table, and atoms don’t have any real color.

I need not tell you that modern physics has by delicate test and remorseless logic assured me that my second scientific table is the only one which is really there–wherever “there” may be. On the other hand I need not tell you that modern physics will never succeed in exorcising that first table–strange compound of external nature, mental imagery, and inherited prejudice–which lies visible to my eyes and tangible to my grasp. […]

Yes, no doubt they are ultimately to be identified after some fashion. But the process by which the external world of [science] is transformed into a world of familiar acquaintance in human consciousness is outside the scope of [science]. And so the world studied according to the methods of [science] remains detached from the world familiar to consciousness, until after the [scientist] has fashioned his labours upon it. Provisionally, therefore, we regard the table which is the subject of physical research as altogether separate from the familiar table […]

It is true that the whole scientific inquiry starts from the familiar and in the end it must return to the familiar world but the part of the journey over which the [science] has charge is in foreign territory.

Arthur Eddington

How do we explore this “foreign territory.”?

How can sense perception and empiricism be so incompatible?

This is something that deserves thought.

Richard Dawkins on science: 'it works, bitches' - The Verge

Science Works

Science is the most powerful tool that humanity has developed to understand and control the world around us.

Science pervades nearly our entire lives. The building we’re standing in — why does it not collapse? Vaccines where do they come from and how do they work? A 50 ton airplane flying at 500 mph… that’s ridiculous.

Our overarching goal is to understand science, understand ways of knowing, and discover new ways to challenge the assumptions upon which we base our beliefs.

Some big questions:

  • What is the difference between science and ‘pseudoscience?’ e.g., astronomy vs astrology. Why is astronomy a science but astrology not?
  • When can we justified to call something a ‘law of science’
  • Are all sciences just physics?
  • Does science describe reality? Or is it just a useful tool?
    • Are quarks, electrons, etc. real? Or are they hypothetical entities reflected in our microscopes?
  • Is science objective or does it have a perspective?
    • Scientists are human after all.