Monkey Forest Tales: What is next after fieldwork: analysis and writing

One of the topics that, in my experience, most of the undergraduate students are afraid of and enjoy less is what we all need to do as scientist after a nice and sometimes long fieldwork…analysis and writing of those field data. I must confess than even for me is one of the parts of doing science that I find more challenging.

After sometimes a long fieldwork collecting interesting data on monkeys, in my case, one tedious part that follows is to put all that information in a spreadsheet which facilitate its analysis. Over the years each of us develop our own method to tabulate and introduce that information, however, is not easy to learn how to do it and because we all think differently each one develops their own method. In my case I found that is easier for me if I have only one spreadsheet with multiple columns that later I can filter to extract the specific information I want to analyze for answering a specific question. For others is just introducing only the information to answer that specific question and letting the other information stay in the field notebooks.

My primatological education is old school, this means I was taught to write down almost everything that happened in the field when following monkeys. Therefore, data tabulation means a lot of detailed data. Most of the researchers today just collect data related to their specific question without paying much attention to other information and behaviors that sometimes are rare and only occasionally seen.

After tabulation of all the field data follows the analysis of that data, another challenging part of the process that is not always easy for students and in the past also for me. My analytical skills only improved over time and still learning new ways of analyzing my data. So, if you are starting don’t worry you will improve with time, a lot of reading and practice.

Writing is the last part of the scientific process, to present and explain your findings. This is also another challenging part, especially if you are doing it not in your native language. Again, this is a skill you improve with time, a lot of reading and practice. Same as for novelist writers the best advice you can receive to improve your writing is to read, read a lot and don’t be afraid to show your writing to others before you submit your article. Sometimes when you are too focus on your science you forget how to explain to others in a clear and concise language.

For all those students and early career researcher like me, the only advice I can give is to be patience with your self and as some very wise researcher once told me it will never be perfect by 80 % is always better than nothing. Keep researching and keep writing. It is a continuous learning process for all of us in science.

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