Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/176

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170
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

WHAT IS RESEARCH?
By Professor HENRY SHALER WILLIAMS,

CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

THE faculty for research is not some peculiar power of the mind, possessed by some and not possessed by others, but it is a common faculty of all intelligent minds, more active often in youth than later in life, and its exercise in forwarding research depends more upon its discipline and training than upon any so-called original endowment of its possessor. But research is diverse from study, and the legitimate outcome of its exercise is not learning what is already known, but the extending of the boundaries of knowledge beyond the point reached by others.

In order that these faculties may be appreciated and, when in a promising state of development, may be properly trained, it is requisite that the faculties be clearly recognized and understood, and that the kind of exercise necessary to strengthen and develop them be known and appreciated.

What, then, is the particular part of our mental processes by which research is accomplished? An answer to this question may be reached directly by distinguishing research from its most closely related activities, namely, investigation and study.

Study has for its direct aim the acquirement of knowledge; investigation has for its aim the understanding of the reasons and relations of things already known; full comprehension and scientific discernment are the results of its exercise. Pure research beyond both of these has for its aim the discovery of facts, truths and relations not previously known; its results are the extension of the field of knowledge.

Study, when separated from investigation and research, primarily deals with language and the names of things and ideas. Close attention to words and language and a careful cultivation of the power of memory are essential to one who would become a perfect student. In this statement 'words and language' are not restricted to what are technically called the languages, as French, German, Greek, Latin or English, but it applies to the sciences as well. The study of chemistry, botany or astronomy primarily consists in learning the proper words and names to apply to definite objects, or phenomena of nature. The task of the student of science is the learning of the nomenclature and formulas of science, and such learning may be acquired without much