Research reports give a misleading picture of research: the business of getting started on a piece of research, carrying it out and getting it used. Like any other practical activity (teaching, for instance), doing research is not a smooth, linear path from beginning to end. This chapter looks at practical research and its characteristically uneven, stumbling, wavering progress. This is done from the perspectives of Chapter 6's principle 9 (there is no hope of doing perfect research), principle 3 (the possibility of radical change as a result of the research) and principle 4 (the need to work collaboratively), which are particularly salient for dealing with 'getting started' issues whatever the eventual choices and decisions about exactly what is done and why. It is also done from the perspective of issues as they present themselves to researchers setting out on research. So first I focus on finding, or being given, a methodology and set of techniques for research: the whole process of literature review, data collection, analysing, writing, reporting and influencing practice. I go on to talk about working with people - collaboration and the ethics involved.
Getting started in educational research may be a matter of: having an issue to explore; a feeling that more knowledge is needed in some area; a chance to investigate an area which matters; a wish to study a crucial question; a desire to get to grips with a pressing practical problem. The focus is on what will be researched, with some attention to how. Sometimes, increasingly, getting started is a matter of having the opportunity to join a team which has already been set up to do some educational research - often as the result of an institution having successfully bid for some funding. In this case, both the 'what' and the 'how' will already have been decided, at least in outline. Mehreen Mirza's research falls into this category.
The 'what' and the 'how' are matters much discussed in books about doing research. These discussions (like mine in Part II) tend to go on as