Lit Research: Getting Started

If only literature research was just that! For the past couple of months, I have vacillated between reviewing IEEE whitepapers on topics related to my research interest areas and doubling back to my favorite MOOCs (massive open online courses such as to learn/re-learn stuff I knew COLD back in undergrad (e.g., differential calculus, trig functions, probability theory and even C programming!). Do forgive me — it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve found the derivative of a natural log!

My faculty advisor, Prof. Cho, recently offered some valuable tips for conducting my literature survey. My objective is to hit two birds with one well-placed stone: 1) enhance my knowledge of the subject domain; and 2) getting a read on what is “state of the art” on a particular research topic. Perhaps my objective is actually threefold: I also endeavor to identify pertinent research challenges and gaps to shape my search for potential research questions, technical approaches and candidate data sets. I find that I am constantly refining my search parameters as I iteratively factor the following constraints: my research interests, my advisor’s research interests, the technical domains (i.e., military mobile computing, IoT and wireless/cellular networks) in which I tread during my “day job” and the relative proximity from the “application/software layer” (I can talk like an EE but I am still a Comp Sci guy at my core). Also, I am trying to remember some sage advice I received many, many years ago — something like “don’t try to make your dissertation a masterpiece…the immediate goal is to graduate…there’ll be plenty of time to do something ‘great’ later”.

My goal for this first year is to produce at least three quality publications for which I am listed as the first author. I am pushing to refine my initial research statement so that I can begin work in earnest on that first research paper. I am mentally prepared to have that first draft ripped to shreds and learning from all of my mistakes. After all, I didn’t sign up for a competitive computer science program to get a pass. As the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair used to say, “to BE the man, you’ve got to BEAT the man!”.

I am currently enrolled in a graduate course on modeling and simulation to bolster my analytic chops which will be needed for planning and executing the appropriate technical approach to properly substantiate my research claims and conclusions. I am enjoying the little “aha” moments when my brain (finally!) catches on to something the professor covered several slides earlier. Only a couple of weeks into the first semester, my confidence is growing even as I wade into deeper and deeper pools of complexity and advanced subject matter.

I’ll use the next few posts to explore some of the research topic areas.


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