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The Secret to Converting a Research Idea into Multiple Articles

The Secret to Converting a Research Idea into Multiple Articles

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Learn more about transportation and logistics management degrees at American Public University.

By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, at American Public University

“Your Ph.D. dissertation can be turned into 100 different research papers,” said my Dissertation Committee Chair Dr. Jacobs, to my stunned disbelief. I thought my four years of dissertation research was winding down and that I had entered the final writing stage.

My brain was a little numb. I was ready for a long rest from the detailed and constant focus which was part of the academic rigor required for a Ph.D. But Dr. Jacobs showed me how to take my research idea and cut it into reliable, authentic articles for peer-reviewed publications and other professional academic outlets.

For all of you entering or completing your Ph.D. or doctorate, I have good news. Here is the secret of continuous publication of what seems like just one idea, one problem and one solution.

Laying the Foundation for the Paper’s Topic

My Ph.D. dissertation topic was “Inference Comparison in Exploratory Neural Network and Traditional Statistical Models of Human Performance.” Dr. Jacobs laid out a simple approach to continued research on a topic.

She explained that to create a research report was like being on a beach and each grain of sand was a separate research report. The Ph.D. dissertation’s focus would be on studying that one grain of sand. The combined accumulation of thousands of such research papers on each grain of sand would paint a picture of that beach’s character.

Dr. Jacobs also said a dissertation was a research report depicting a solution to a problem. Everything that led to that solution was a separate research paper as well.

That meant the following ideas could be pursued as research from that one dissertation:

  1. Describe the process of finding the problem. That process was one of discovering assumptions that supported the problem statement and identifying vulnerabilities to each assumption. It also meant identifying how long the problem was to remain valid.
  2. Describe the data that was used and how it was aggregated, analyzed and presented.
  3. Describe the data that was not used and why such data was restricted for the analysis of the other data.
  4. Describe the statistical regression process of predicting results of complex situations.
  5. Describe the use of neural networks in predicting results of complex situations.
  6. Describe why one would compare statistical regression analysis with neural networks.
  7. Describe what is meant by “dirty data” – a term coined in the dissertation over the objections of the Department Chair at the time.

The complete list is a lot longer. But for your Ph.D. research, there are many articles to write and publish along the way toward your final reward – that one and only dissertation.

During that final year, Dr. Jacobs co-authored several of my articles for professional publications. They included:

  • “Comparison of Logistic Regression and Artificial Neural Networks for Hypercomplex Problems”
  • “Regression and Neural Network Approaches in Evaluation of Historical Combat”

Research Has Many Facets and Changes with Time

Research is all about time periods; when you look at data today, you may not have the same view of it that you did yesterday. Research is all about making assumptions that contain, restrict or confine your problem.

Research is also about discovering “the” problem hidden within what you believed was the problem. Research also involves uncovering vulnerabilities in the assumptions that are the foundation of the problem you are trying so desperately to solve.

My research topic underwent change with time. It evolved from “Inference Comparison in Exploratory Neural Network and Traditional Statistical Models of Human Performance” to “Comparing Traditional Statistical Models with Neural Network Models: The Case of the Relation of Human Performance Factor to the Outcomes of Military Combat.”

My Dissertation Needed Ample Writing and Revision

That last year of my Ph.D. work was spent just writing and rewriting sentence after sentence, page after page. I also listened while five other professors on the committee contradicted each other as to what I needed to rewrite for clarification.

The editing was brutal and ceaseless. I was convinced that they did not want my dissertation to ever be published.

One day, Dr. Jacobs announced it was over. My dissertation was complete.

In shock, I accepted the committee’s congratulations. I stood there holding a briefcase full of recent edits I had been asked to make just the day before. I still have those papers and edits stored in a box.

My 259-page dissertation was published in 1995. When I received my copy in the mail, it stayed unopened on the coffee table in our living room for six months.

For the Ph.D. candidate, writing a research paper is ultimately about focus. It should also be about focus for any faculty member intent on the life of a researcher.

Learn more about transportation and logistics management degrees at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management, and Government Contracting. Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He has published two books, RFID Metrics and How Grandma Braided the Rain.

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