Doing Research about Education

By Geoffrey Walford | Go to book overview

12

The 'Last Blue Mountain'? Doing Educational Research in a Contract Culture

Valerie Wilson

This chapter has outlined some of the main problems that can impede good fieldwork. Each researcher faces their own personal 'last blue mountain barred with snow', and has to deal with it. Flecker's pilgrims had the right idea, because they set out undeterred by mountains saying 'surely we are brave'. The good qualitative researcher can emulate the pilgrims, and struggle across the 'last blue mountain'. (Delamont, 1992, p. 49)


Background

As I have become more familiar with educational research literature, an identifiable gap emerges. The available literature could be divided into two discrete areas: firstly, numerous 'how to do' books aimed at helping the lone postgraduate student complete an academic thesis, for example Cohen and Manion (1994), which have been written in a 'readerly style' (Sumara and LuceKapler, 1993); and secondly, collections of papers on particular research methods typically recording conference proceedings or drawing together previously published papers on specialist topics edited by a well-known educational researcher (Burgess, 1985), also written in an authoritative manner. Management of educational contract research was conspicuously absent; so too was any inkling that the research process was anything but smooth with published accounts of disagreements tending to focus on inter- rather than intra-team conflict (Troyna, 1994). Rather surprisingly, Brown and Wake (1988), in their book published on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Council for Research in Education 'to celebrate professional researchers', exclude any reference to the terms and conditions of researchers' employment. Additionally, a search of the ERIC system using the key words 'managing research' yielded not a single reference.

Why, when so much funded research is undertaken within teams of contract researchers, which perforce require managing to produce a research output, have researchers been so silent on this particular topic? How are researchers to make sense of this situation when they find themselves-as Lather (1993) argues 'poised at the end of the twentieth century in search of a discourse to

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