Research Issues


Norms for good research


Andrew Chesterman

July 4, 2010


On research norms: a belated response to Daniel Gile’s posting on scientific norms (December 8, 2004).


Gile’s scientific norms were explicitly intended to relate to his “empirical research” paradigm. I have been wondering whether a more general formulation would be possible, covering any kind of good research, including what Gile has called the “liberal arts” kind. The list below is a kind of slightly edited version of Gile’s original. The original started: Science is… This version starts: Good research is…


For another recent discussion of this issue, from a different angle, see Stolze, Radegundis 2009. Worlds of Discourse in Translation Studies. Across Languages and Cultures 10, 1, 1-19.


- Andrew Chesterman




        Good research is systematic: it looks at its object of study (which may be empirical or conceptual) systematically, ideally leaving no stone unturned. It takes account of possible counter-evidence and counter-arguments, for instance.

        Good research is careful: it checks the evidence, the rationale, the argument. It systematically tests claims and theories, and it avoids drawing unjustified conclusions or making claims that are not justified by evidence or argument.

        Good research is logical: claims, rationales, interpretations and conclusions are based on logical argument and evidence, not guesswork or speculation or rhetoric.

        Good research aspires to be objective: it recognizes that personal bias gets in the way of every scientist’s or scholar’s attempts to explore and understand the world, and therefore tries to reduce such personal bias or eliminate it whenever possible, partly through awareness-raising (for instance where the role or value of subjective interpretation or the potential effect of a personal position are made explicit), and partly through procedures (e.g. to improve reliability).

        Good research is critical: criticism is one way for members of the academic community to help each other, as it is often easier to see the flaws and make constructive suggestions to correct them in another researcher’s work than in one’s own.

        Good research is collective, in the sense that every scholar and scientist draws upon the work of other members of the community in terms of evidence, concepts, theories and methods, and contributes to the community by offering his/her own input.

        Good research is communicative: to make possible the collective building of greater understanding, scientists and scholars communicate the results of their work in oral papers and written publications of many kinds. Good research is reported clearly, so that the communication is as effective as possible.

Good research is explicit: when communicating his/her contribution to other members of the community, a scientist or scholar reports this new work explicitly, so that the community can understand what s/he has done and build upon it, and/or help him/her by criticizing it. In particular, good research includes accurate and adequate documentation of evidence and sources.