Benefits of the “Non-Existent” Dataset Problem: Collecting Original Data on Special Economic Zones


Collecting original data while learning the methods and theories that best apply gives students a greater understanding of data-collection processes, data structure, and room for creativity to use a greater range of methodological tools. Students often choose well-trodden paths when formulating a research question. Studying the depths of an established line of research with readily available data and standardized methods has its benefits. However, in the interest of knowledge creation, choosing a line of inquiry based upon curiosity—rather than convention—can have a longer lasting and more generalizable impact on methodological learning. I became interested in special economic zones while learning to speak Arabic. When my curiosity extended to political science and economics, it was immediately apparent that very little data or research existed (there is still not very much). Collecting original data and then learning new methodologies with it led to a rich, diverse, and flexible research agenda.

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