This post is research.

Yesterday I was asked to review a paper for a colloquium. The paper was describing (fairly outdated) ways that researchers can collate and archive web artefacts (blog posts and so on). The paper itself is neither here nor there, but the subject matter had some interesting repercussions on my still-new-to-research brain. When I read the paper, my first thought was ‘But this is what I do every day, only more efficiently’, and my second thought was ‘Am I missing a boat here?’. It had previously not occurred to me that practices that I simply thought were part of an efficient workflow, others were writing up as research. It took a bit of unpacking on Twitter (thanks @djplaner and @s_palm) to fully get my head around. Turns out most of what I do is potential research – Twitter networking, reflective blogging, training design, iPadding, Diigo/Instapaper/RSS/Mendeley research workflow etc etc. These were all things I just considered ‘getting on with it’, and ‘research’ was something in-depth, planned and conceptual that happened seperately. Not so, apparently.

It raises two questions for me. The first is – this might be how the research game goes, but is it really legitimate? Has it evolved this way simply because the pressure to publish is so great? Can anything now be considered research if you’re clever about writing it up?

The second is – how do I reconcile this idea as a researcher? Time on papers on things I consider run of the mill is time spent away from my intended research trajectory. Yet in the current research environment, papers talk and only blogging about things means that  a lot of people who could potentially benefit from research on good practice may never read it, because blogs aren’t on their radar. Although, there’s probably a research niche on the fact that often the most valuable information isn’t contained in journal articles, too…

Would love your thoughts on this. Is the system right? Is it broken? Do I need to jump on the train?

3 Replies to “This post is research.”

  1. The method vs the content. The game, as you put it, is the current culture and is steeped in resilant protocols, not least that newbs are the cognitive apprentice. Time served and conforming to norm-peer groups is an intrinsic belief and enforced with iron rule. However, there are advocates for change. Such things as under-graduate research as an activity beyond the program. Even Mendelay causes a rift in the norms, and it will be though use, that it will either become accepted (be it reluctantly from some quarters) or ignored. Right now, go with the flow – all be it out of sync. The methods are not going to change at a similar pace to social-technological evolution – in my humble view.

  2. IMHO.

    Is the system right? No. It is broken. For all sorts of reasons.

    Do you need to jump on the train? Probably yes, but it depends on your aims. If you want to stay in universities and get some level of recognition, then you have to play the game.

    But that doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul. You just have to find that balance between playing the game and contributing something you feel is worthwhile.

    Personally, I tried to tie my research with what I was doing because of workload and the additional insight it can provide. In terms of workload, researching in the same area you were working helps save time and keeps your head in the same space. Even if it is from a different perspective, which in itself can be a good thing. Which is the additional insight benefit. In my experience with e-learning information systems, too much of what passes for research doesn’t necessarily connect strongly with practice, and most practice doesn’t leverage research (see first problem).

    So, I’m not necessarily a fan of the idea of research being considered separate from practice. But then most of my research has a action research/design theory flavour which tends to place more importance on the connection between practice and research.

    All that said, the biggest mistake I made was to allow this practice/research combination contribute to the delay in getting the formal qualification, the PhD. The advice I’ve been giving friends, is to forget about the other stuff, focus on getting the PhD. But always practice a bit of balance.

    As an example, I’m in the process of heading back to uni to become a high school teacher. I’m hoping I can get a paper out of that journey that will offer interesting insights into the whole journey. Even if I don’t, keeping the journal and reflecting on the experience should help my learning, and might provide the raw data for the paper.

  3. It would seem that the paper you read had a lot of impact – though not necessarily because of its brilliance 😉 If we think of research as a trajectory then it might be more natural that there are more or less interesting achievements … some people argue that early year PhDs etc shouldn’t publish – well, I don’t agree here – it’s more a matter of being a selective reader. Most papers can contribute ‘something’ to ‘someone’ and I am always suspicious if people would like to promote a/their gold standard for what should be taken as good research … and I would like to think that there is far less of a ‘system’ that makes us do things as what we believe (it’s kind of too easy to blame a system).

    The system might be broken but – correct me if I am wrong – systems are played on a daily basis and therefore they end up becoming something else anyway … and yes there is certainly a research niche about back-channeling, openness of research and the resilience of traditional research paradigms …
    Well, just some off-the-cuff remarks … interesting blog entry – as always, good to follow some tweets from down under!

    Cheers C

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *