Minimum Viable Research
So you have a new research question. You’re reading a paper, or a book, or a news article, and a hypothesis forms in your head. Or you have a new idea for resolving an important conundrum in your research.
What do you do?
In startup and business culture (or certain segments of it, at least), there is the concept of the minimum viable product. This is basically the smallest version of a product, stripped down to its barest essentials, to see whether it would gain traction in the market. Create a minimal product and iterate quickly instead of spending a year building something that might not take off.
I think this concept is instructional for research. Minimum viable research would be to ask yourself: what is the simplest thing I can test to see if this idea might go somewhere? Rather than spending a week doing data analysis, is there a 1—2 hour way to see if it might work, or if it is trivially falsifiable? Can you structure your research inquiry so as to fail fast, to not spend excessive time trying to fit a model that just won’t work?