This is probably the last thing you want to think about while undertaking your research apprenticeship but we are talking about failure as a key part of the process you will go through. It's how we learn to do things, from learning to walk, talk or master the ideas of an obscure philosopher!

The trick is that when something does not work out that you don't dismiss it (humans are good at doing that) but that you step back and see what you can learn from it.

The logic behind doing pilots of proposed research falls into this category. When we plan a research study, we rehearse in our minds how we think it will pan out. We invariably get it wrong. Some bits might happen as we want but there is always things that don't. Hence the importance of a pilot or trial. You should pilot everything you do, then when if it crashes and burns it has not cost you much1. You can learn from what went wrong and try again.


Tim Harford has published an interesting book2 about failure.

From Jeff Stibel3 a couple of good quotes about failure:

  • "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." – Winston Churchill
  • "I have not failed, I've just found ten thousand ways that won't work." – Thomas Edison
  • "Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." – Sophia Loren
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