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Heilmeier's Catechism is a set of questions that any research project or product development project should be able to answer to assess its feasibility.

So far I've found this example.

Specifically, I was wondering if it's possible these partially overlap:

  • Who cares?
  • If you're successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks and the payoffs?

If you state who is affected by the project in the first point (the stakeholders), I think you should avoid commenting on the positive effects until the second point and simply mention how they are involved in the project.

In the second point, I would mention how these stakeholders would be affected (positively and negatively) if the project were a success.

The third point allows you to mention any effects if the project fails, but I think the payoffs have already been discussed in the second point.

Is this a good argument to only consider risks in the third point?

Also, the first question in the full series is:

What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.

The example I provided uses technical jargon specific to neurology. If I need to use technical concepts, can I introduce them with a definition which doesn't contain any jargon? Otherwise, its difficult to describe a problem without introducing the problem domain.

Finally, are citations permitted for referencing any previous research, as well as backing any claims?

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    Hi Aram, putting together lists isn't really what Stack Exchange is about. However, I think it would be perfectly acceptable to edit your question and ask about something you don't understand about Heilmeier's Catechism or to ask for an explanation of a tough concept. Considering there's an example that shows you how to answer these questions, it would help if you could clarify what you're confused about. If this gets closed before you make edits anyway, give it a shot as we can always reopen. Good luck! – jmort253 Oct 6 '12 at 18:49
  • Let me just add that I think there's a great question buried in there and would love to see this edited. :) – jmort253 Oct 6 '12 at 18:54
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    Good edits and I learnt about something new - thank you! – Lunivore Oct 7 '12 at 16:25
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    Interesting topic and new concept to me. Thanks – Picarus Oct 15 '12 at 12:00
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On using jargon: research projects have to be ultimately sold to those who pay for them (or arrange the financing) without intimately knowing the subject area. Hence, it makes sense to ensure that the main goal of the project is communicated without information loss or ambiguity.

Jargon falls in two categories: well-defined and ill-defined terms. Well-defined terms can be progressively expanded without introducing ambiguity to convey the essentials up to the point where every layman is able to understand the meaning.

Ill-defined terms are those with no consensus definition within the expert community. A couple of nice examples can be gleaned from Richard Feynman (1997) (Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-31604-9), especially chapter "Is Electricity Fire?".

So, if you use well-defined terms, the explanation can and should be reduced to layman's dictionary, even at the cost of being more verbose.

Please consider that using complex, Latin-derived technical terms as a shorthand within the explanation increases the risk of a mental block for the readers (which makes them act irrationally and miss the entire point of your presentation).

Is this a good argument to only consider risks in the third point?

Any unbalanced discussion of risks without payoffs or payoffs without risks is quite pointless, since it leaves the reader uninformed (and possibly duped), bereft of basic data for rational decision-making.

Specifically, I was wondering if it's possible these partially overlap:

Who cares?

If you're successful, what difference will it make?

What are the risks and the payoffs?

No, these are mostly orthogonal, non-overlapping dimensions of the project.

The set of those who care is substantially different from those who would benefit (or lose, for that matter) from the results of the project. Those with concentrated interests (say, pharmaceutical companies) will always be much greater hindrance or support for the projects than the general public or anybody with gain/loss insufficiently high to warrant action.

HTH

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