What I Tell Young Researchers (3 min read)

Having  been a researcher for many many years, I’ve picked up lots of useful tips and tricks to produce good research. Most I’ve been given by others, so I equally like to share everything I’ve learned to all the newbies in my research team. Below is the list I give (and it can useful for non-researchers too):

“Sell your cleverness for bewilderment” (Rumi)

Diverse sources

1)      Mainstream – sell-side banks, BIS, IMF, Fed, FT, WSJ, Economist etc

2)      Academic  – NBER weekly mailing list, SSRN.com, VoxEU.org

3)      Blogs and podcasts – there are zillions

4)      Books: read, read, read. Get a kindle.

Retaining and processing:

1)      Dump everything from brain on to paper – I use “Evernote” app

2)      When reading, underline relevant lines , then create own index at back

3)      Use memory techniques to remember (read “Moonwalking With Einstein”)

4)      Sleep on it to allow subconscious to “work on problems”

5)      Stress test ideas by talking to others (ie don’t hide ideas) 

Analysis

1)      We are not rational, but we are rationalising experts. We have gut/emotion-based beliefs, which we then use our rational faculties to justify. Leads to confirmation bias and a closed mind

2)      We suffer from hindsight bias where the past looks “easier” to understand. Go back to actual predictions/commentaries of the time to see what people were really thinking.

3)      Most investors/analysts are biased to the very recent past. Use this to know what they are likely to be thinking and also on how they could be wrong

4)      If an idea can be back-tested, test it. Eg summer is good for carry – you can test this.

5)      You are only as good as your most recent call! Enjoy the praise when right, and don’t feel bad when you get mocked for being wrong

Writing

1)      The first line is everything: ““It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1984, Orwell), “All children, except one, grow up.”  (Peter Pan, Barrie), “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”  (Metamorphosis, Kafka)

2)      Cut, cut, cut. Less is better. Whatever you’ve written halve it.

3)      Make charts look good – make the lines distinguishable in black and white, avoid chart junk (gridlines, frames, pictures, unnecessary dimensions)

4)      Using the law of 3 – Three Little Pigs, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, “An Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman enter a pub…”, “The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”

5)      Get someone to read it. Ask what they would change – take their criticism seriously, but not (necessarily) their remedy.

Presenting

1)      Follow (1), (2) and (4) from above

2)      Think about the 3-act movie structure: Act 1 (introduce the goodie and baddie), act 2 (the conflict) and act 3 (the resolution). Use this to give your speech dynamism.

3)      Have a message – more important than the quality of the delivery.

Hope this helps

Bilal

 

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