Understanding research, or beginning to

This semester I’ve chosen to study a unit called Practical Applications of Research which, recommended by my course co ordinator, will hopefully provide me an overview of research. I’m doing this as an introduction to the language and to get a grasp on key concepts and frameworks that will underpin how I understand and undertake my research projects next year.

Being a researcher has always been in my plans no matter which field or profession I entered. I can’t satisfy my curiosity or thirst to know more about anything and everything that grabs my attention, which I guess turned me towards the library and information profession to begin with. To be honest, I even fantasised about being a university lecturer while at high school, as I enjoy teaching others and seeing them develop an understanding for something they didn’t have before. But there’s also my practical, ‘real world’ side of myself who likes to take part in implementing things, see what works and doesn’t work, apply knowledge and ways of doing things. So there’s little wonder I aspire to be a practitioner-researcher.

I have a few ideas for my research projects next year.

1. Information literacy – yep, I’ve been sold on the concept of experiencing information and developing information literacy skills. But I’d like to investigate its role in corporate settings and organisations, its relationship with innovation and the generation (and management) of knowledge in both an industry and individual organisations.

2. Evidence-based practice – I’d like to look at ways of building the evidence-base by identifying what constitutes as evidence in this profession, as well as practitioner/researcher collaboration relationships and practitioner-driven research.

This first week of the unit, I had an overview of basic research terminology. I’d like to reflect for a moment on where I sit on a continuum of world views and research paradigms. I don’t think any of the following will shock anyone who knows me.

Hatch (2002) outlines research paradigms with four elements – Ontology (nature of reality), Epistemology (what can be known), Methodology, and Products (forms of knowledge produced), and these describe what it means to be a Positivist, Postpositivist, Constructivist, Critical/Feminist, and Poststructuralist. I sit mainly within Postpositivist, with Constructivist tendencies. I find reason and justification in rigorously defined methods that produce consistent and objective results. I can see how there could be multiple realities but the science nerd (or Sheldon Cooper) in me says ‘no’. I do believe knowledge is a human construction. Knowledge is generated through understanding, which may or may not take place with solid empirical evidence. There is some knowledge that can only be abstract and not founded in statistics or quantitative analysis. What I oppose the most about the other end of the scale is the idea that there is no “truth” to be known. Of course there is, in my view.

Then there’s Jaervensivu and Toernroos (2010) who plot views graphically (and I like it that way ;)). Between naive realism and naive relativism, I tend to sit between critical realism and moderate constructionism. I can acknowledge that not everything can be measured in absolute but I like to know as much as I can based on objectivity and see things they way they are, and not how they can be seen in various ways.

Throughout the semester I’d like to share what I learn about myself as a budding researcher and perhaps give an insight and introduction to others about what research means and what it takes look at research critically.

 

 

Hatch, J. A. (2002). Doing qualitative research in educational settings. Albany: State University of New York, p. 13.

Jaervensivu, T. and Toernroos, J. A. (2010). Case study research with moderate constructionism: Conceptualisation and practical illustration. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(1), p. 100-108.

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  1. Interesting post! What is evidence in the information science field is an interesting topic and I look forward to what you have to say about it.

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