Doing Educational Research

By Geoffrey Walford | Go to book overview

4

BREAKTHROUGHS AND BLOCKAGES IN ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH Contrasting experiences during the Changing Schools project

Lynda Measor and Peter Woods


INTRODUCTION

Research reports frequently give the appearance of confident, well-organized progress through the lengthy period of research. This probably is rarely the case, and certainly does not apply to our study, which we conducted between 1980-4 (Measor and Woods, 1984a). It was characterized more by stops and starts, false trails and blind alleys. There were long periods of routine data collection—and some flashes of excitement; alternating experiences of being promoted and obstructed, of being deeply involved and almost totally marginalized.

In this article we aim to capture the variable fortunes and flavour of the research, and reflect on their significance. We give special attention to ‘decision points’—moments in the research where crucial decisions had to be made. Consideration will thus be given to the way that such decisions are arrived at (with particular reference to co-researching and co-authorship), and reflection on the appropriateness of some of the decisions that were made.

Why is such an account necessary? Often when research is published, and this is equally true of our research, we are given very little background to it, although qualitative research has a better record than most in this respect (see for example, Atkinson, 1976; Hargreaves, 1967; Humphreys, 1967). We are not given a picture of the daily routines of the research. We are given ‘antiseptic accounts’. We want to suggest that what is left out is important, this kind of information is important in order for the reader to be able to scrutinize and judge research findings—and therefore assess its virtues, and its value. Sociological thinking suggests that, because of these omissions and silences which occur in the ‘antiseptic’ account,

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