Research from an outsider’s point of view consists of the process of searching for answers, knowledge, and data. Research in our opinion is at first, thinking, processing and formulating the right questions to search for the best answers.

In Douglas Adams’, “The Hitchhhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” A supercomputer by the name of Deep Thought, is created to answer, “What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?” It takes 7.5 million years for the computer to arrive at an unlikely (for us mere mortals) the answer of 42.

There are Reddit and Quora forums filled with theories about this particular answer. One answer I love Aravind Pradhyumnan on Quora states: Many theories were proposed, including that 42 is 101010 in binary code, that light refracts off water by 42 degrees to create a rainbow, that light requires 10−42 seconds to cross the diameter of a proton. The author Douglas Adams rejected them all. He was quoted as saying – “The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’. I typed it out. End of story.”

I particularly love the idea that the simplistic answer to meaning of life, the universe and everything is a rainbow. Rainbows make people smile, think of catching leprechauns and their gold. Rainbows represent hope. It is a great theory.

What we need to look at is this the book’s main question. Is the question, “What is the meaning to life, the universe and everything? a good question. The answer is a resounding no. It is too broad, too many variables. Add the word everything and what do you have? An aster that is rife with chaos and ambiguity. Philosophers, scientists, religious leaders have tried to answer a question similar to this and we are no closer to life’s answer that when it was first thought of. Hence, Douglas Adams knew his question was not a good question. Hence, the numerical number answer is a joke.

Here is an exercise to think about questions. Type into your preferred search engine, “What is a good question?” (You don’t need to type in the question mark but, it makes a great habit) 10 pages show up at the bottom of your page, click on the 10th page. There is a fantastic article from KQED’s Mind/Shift page titled: For Students, Why the Question is More Important Than the Answer by Katrina Schwarz published, October 26, 2012. I have included a link, if you do not want to perform this little bit of, breaking your online search habit exercise.

The article, geared primarily for teachers and educators, has a  great starting point for new student of any age. The article starts with some basic history of the Socratic method and a game that could be implemented in a classroom. One of the games if quite interesting as the object is to ask as many different questions as you can. This allows you to think of your subject in a broad manner. Upon reviewing your questions you can remove those that are not pertinent, thus narrowing your questions for accessible search for your needed answers.

I would further recommend on the first page of your search “What makes a question good?” This is from Bowdoin college: Reading, Writing, and Researching for History, Patrick Rael, Bowdoin College, 2004 (PDF)

It is a simple two page document that can assist you in formulating your questions.

We have clients who seem to be too close to their topic. We review the topics and questions from our clients we then go through the process of asking questions about their question. This is how we assist our clients.

Happy searching.