Research Method for Engineering Research Students – III: Some Insightful Quotes about Philosophy, Science, Inquiry, and Research

Posted on February 2, 2013


Selection by  Sanjay Goel,


Here are some insightful quotes about Philosophy, science, inquiry, and research.  Today, we had a very engaging discussion on these quotations in the first class  of a   ‘Research Methodology’ course for PhD  scholars.  Different students identified with different quotations as transformational insights for them.

  1. Philosophy begins in wonder –  Plato
  2. It was their wonder, astonishment that first led men to philosophize and still leads them. –Aristotle
  3. I have gained this from philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law. —
  4. Inquiry is fatal to certainty.—Will Durant
  5. Research is creating new knowledge. —Neil Armstrong
  6. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. — Albert Einstein
  7. The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.― Claude Lévi-Strauss
  8. The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before. —Thorstein Veblen
  9. Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.—Marcus Aurelius
  10. The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.― Socrates
  11. Doubt is the incentive to truth and inquiry leads the way.—Hosea Ballou
  12. The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge.― Daniel J. Boorstin
  13. The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”― Marcel Proust
  14. Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.― André Gide
  15. If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? — Albert Einstein
  16. Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing. — Wernher von Braun
  17. Highly organized research is guaranteed to produce nothing new. ― Frank Herbert, Dune
  18. Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.-  Chuck Palahniuk
  19. Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind. ― Marston Bates
  20. The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but ‘That’s funny…” ― Isaac Asimov
  21. The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.― Celia Green
  22. No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.― Isaac Newton
  23. The simplest picture one can form about the creation of an empirical science is along the lines of an inductive method. Individual facts are selected and grouped together so that the laws that connect them become apparent…However, the big advances in scientific knowledge originated in this way only to a small degree…The truly great advances in our understanding of nature originated in a way almost diametrically opposed to induction. The intuitive grasp of the essentials of a large complex of facts leads the scientist to the postulation of a hypothetical basic law or laws. From these laws, he derives his conclusions. –Einstein
  24.  It is a scientifically proven fact that all scientifically proven facts have originated from original and thereby unproven theories.― Silvia Hartmann
  25. A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.—Isaac Asimov
  26.  Most of the time I’ve worked in labs if I didn’t encounter something in a week entirely unexpected and surprising I’d consider it a lost week. Lots of that is due to mistakes and stupidity, but it could open a new line of inquiry. Something really good turns up once in a hundred times, but it makes the whole day worthwhile.– Lewis Thomas
  27. True science is never speculative; it employs hypotheses as suggesting points for inquiry, but it never adopts the hypotheses as though they were demonstrated propositions.— Cleveland Abbe
  28. There is nothing as practical as a good theory. — Kurt Lewin, (also Kant, Einstein, Maxwell)
  29. A theory is the more impressive the greater is the simplicity of its premises, the more different are the kinds of things it relates and the more extended the range of its applicability. — Albert Einstein
  30. I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy. –Albert Einstein
  31. It was a great step in science when men became convinced that, in order to understand the nature of things, they must begin by asking, not whether a thing is good or bad, noxious or beneficial, but of what kind it is? And how much is there of it? Quality and Quantity were then first recognised as the primary features to be observed in scientific inquiry. — James Clerk Maxwell
  32. People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.– Will Rogers
  33. A few observation and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.-Alexis Carrel
  34. Reason, observation, and experience; the holy trinity of science. —- Robert Green Ingersoll
  35. All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention. –Rudolf Arnheim
  36. It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young. — Konrad Lorenz
  37. The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book. ― Samuel Johnson
  38. Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. ― Thomas Henry Huxley
  39. That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” ― Christopher Hitchens
  40.  If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. ― Isaac Newton
  41. Student: Dr. Einstein, Aren’t these the same questions as last year’s [physics] final exam?
    Dr. Einstein: Yes; But this year the answers are different.” ― Albert Einstein
  42. The problem in this business isn’t to keep people from stealing your ideas; it’s making them steal your ideas. ― Howard Aiken

You may also like to see:

1.   Research Method for Engineering Research Students – Part I: A Checklist for Literature Review

2.   Research Method for Engineering Research Students – Part II: A Checklist for Reflective Self-assessment of the Research Work


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