I have a love-hate relationship with writing research papers. Writing has always been one of my greatest struggles in school and even now in my graduate program and my professional life, I find that it requires significantly more time than the other projects on my plate. I say "love-hate," but never really understood why I secretly enjoyed working on research papers until now–it is because I use the design research process and tools to organize and synthesize the research t0 formulate new insights. I finally have the vocabulary and awareness to understand how I like to work, even on projects seemingly not related to design.
When I begin a paper, I first gather an abundance of research. From my findings, I create snippets of information in a common form–mostly quotes or descriptions of diagrams or other visuals. Displaying these all out in front of me, in no particular order, I then begin to sort the information through affinity diagramming. Once I have grouped the information in common themes, I look for insightful connections that lead to a greater statement encompassing all of the research. This exercise is identical to one we use when we perform research and synthesize data to find innovative opportunities in our design projects.
Although research papers consume a significant amount of my time, I do enjoy the process involved and feel that the more I practice this process, the more efficient I will become–even in writing.