Becoming a Researcher: A Companion to the Research Process

Becoming a Researcher: A Companion to the Research Process

Becoming a Researcher: A Companion to the Research Process

Becoming a Researcher: A Companion to the Research Process

Synopsis

This innovative book combines what most books separate: research as practical activity and research as intellectual engagement. It clarifies and makes explicit the methodological issues that underlie the journey from initial research idea to the finished report and beyond.

The text moves the researcher logically through the research process and provides insights into methodology through an in-depth discussion of methods. It presents the research process as an engagement with text. This theme moves through the construction of text in the form of data and the deconstruction of text in analysis. Finally the focus moves to the reconstruction of text through the re-presentation of the research in the report. Following through each of these stages in turn, the chapters consider either a practical issue or a group of methods and interrogate the associated methodological concerns. In addition, the book also addresses the rarely explored issues of the researcher as writer and researcher identity as core elements of the research process.

The book provides a range of insights and original perspectives. These successfully combine practical guidance with the invitation to consider the problematic nature of research as social practice. It is an ideal reference for those embarking on research for the first time and provides a new methodological agenda for established researchers.

Excerpt

In the bookshop at the University of Sussex where we work there is a large shelf of books on doing research aimed mostly at postgraduate students. Almost all the books in this section are what might be termed manuals or handbooks, which take the reader through the practicalities of undertaking social and educational research. As teachers and supervisors of research students we recommend our students at the start of their studies to go out and buy at least one of these books on research methods. If nothing else, the how-to-do-it approach can help in giving a bit of confidence when faced with the daunting task of embarking on a new degree. However, while they fulfil a valuable service, these books can also be seen as rather dangerous. If they are not read carefully and critically they can lead to a view of empirical research as a series of functional challenges to be faced and overcome. Although they might touch on wider issues, their purpose is essentially that of 'tips for researchers', where complexity is essentially introduced as a procedural or practical issue.

However, most people who consult these methods books soon realize that the process of doing research and of becoming a researcher is much deeper and more complicated than it seems at first. Even those who aim to keep it simple for as long as possible are finally confronted with the idea that they must write about their methodology and that this means more than 'what I did'. At this stage they may then look for books and articles on methodology, which present theoretical perspectives to problematize the research process. The danger here to the inexperienced researcher, is that these texts often seem difficult and their relevance to their own particular project, at the early stages of their research, may be rather hard to detect. These texts usually seem much more relevant in the later stages . . .

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