Reflection: Foregrounding Identity in Academia & Scholarship

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Right about now, we find ourselves knees-deep (maybe waists-deep!) in final projects. It is that time of the year in the Spring semester, Folks! At Weingarten, we empathize with the criticality and rigorousness of your final projects: term papers, capstone projects, portfolios, program thesis papers, and the list goes on! We also know our students, yes, YOU! You have been diligently examining your syllabus requirements, going through the assignment/project rubric with a fine-tooth comb, consulting with the Professor and/or the TA, integrating your course citations and materials, aggregating your own research references, and perhaps even disaggregating, coding and analyzing your collected data!

As you sit down in front of your computer to write your introduction, thesis or opening paragraph, BREATHE! Close your eyes, inhale deep, exhale loud, and CENTER YOURSELF… Yes, that’s it! We want to locate the YOU back in the research project!

Due to the increasing professionalization of the Academy and the scientification of research, even social science research, it is easy to loose sight of our own IDENTITIES in being enveloped by the research process. But remember, YOUR PERSPECTIVES are UNIQUE and VALUABLE! You are part of a diverse University Community, which is bonded by all that makes us different, inasmuch as there is synergy in our factors in common. Your IDENTITY fundamentally influences your approach, methods and interpretations – whether or not you acknowledge it explicitly in your work.

YOUR IDENTITY OCCUPIES A CRITICAL SPACE IN YOUR CONCEPTUALIZATIONS

Here are a few tips in bringing back, centering and honoring the YOU in your research process:

What Inspired You?

Identify and track the source of  your inspiration. Was it a person, object or moment in time that served as catalyst for your inspiration? Was it a personal, academic or professional experience? Is there a story, a narrative behind your inspiration? Don’t lose sight of this inspiration as it will not only serve as fuel to sustain your academic work, but it will also serve as an interpretive lens in helping contextualize your conclusions and implications based on the source or triggering axis of your inspiration.

Look Back: What is your Legacy?

Reflecting on and examining your legacy will help you flesh out the theoretical framework to your project. Your legacy may involve histories, stories, narratives, memories and experiences that shaped who you are today. They often inform the ideologies, orientations and interpretive lenses, which can be teased out of your theoretical framework. Other times, they serve as counter-narratives, arguments or positions relative to your own or society’s dominant stances.

Explore Your Intersectionality

You are a phenomenally complex individual whose legacy, orientations and identity are deeply and richly rooted. The work of understanding the intersections of our identities, the matrix of their categorical representations (e.g. gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, citizenship status, etc.), how our identities are socially constructed, fluid and negotiated, and ultimately, what socio-political and economic power they afford or limit in different contexts can be labor intensive, but will prove invaluable to your research process. It will help reveal blind spots and assumptions in the research design, analysis and/or interpretations of findings. Identifying, wrestling with coherences, dissonances and/or boundaries of the scope of our research project is our duty as researchers.

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Localizing and interrogating your own IDENTITY within Research is a critical means to Embracing and Valuing the authentic YOU and WORLD around YOU!

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Reflections on DATA

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As a society, we put great value on DATA. As students, academics, scholars, researchers, practitioners and inquirers, we are often in the pursuit of, if not, immersed in DATA. Each Discipline, from the Medical and the Health Sciences, to Engineering, Computer Science and Business, Sociology and Social Policy, to Education and many others, we seek to collect, analyze and interpret data in meaningful and impactful ways. All the while, we adhere to the highest standards of integrity, validity and reliability. Institutionally, we evaluate and scrutinize our methodological processes through rigorous review processes, internal review boards, internal and external audits, and certifications. Whether or not our practices are directly or indirectly related to data generation and management, our lives are increasingly enveloped in DATA, and currently, BIG DATA mediated by powerful data processing and storage software.

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Relatedly, in the scope of research data analysis, there is substantive literature, instruction, training and professional development that engage quantitative and qualitative methods of research and data collection. Nonetheless, there are some enduring questions about the implications of methodology towards humanizing and democratizing research outcomes:

What is the symbolic or material value of researcher data?
  1. Whose interests does it serve? Who does research ultimately benefit?
  2. What purpose(s) does it fulfill, for whom and why?
  3. What are the restrictive parameters (e.g. temporal or contextual, etc.) particular to the affordances and limitations of the collected data that would curtail or caution the generalizability or universality of the research findings?
  4. What other outcomes or consequences can be anticipated, identified or acknowledged beyond/outside the scope of the research question/study?
  5. What are the cross-disciplinary implications of the study (e.g. social, economic, political, religious, etc.)
Are there issues of Access in Site and Participant Selection?
  1. Whose stories are studied, retold, why, and how? Which stories and agendas are foregrounded, and which are subjugated? Whose stories and agendas are omitted?
  2. Which participants does research reach by elicitation, and why? Is there an avenue/process for participants/communities to reach research opportunities? Is there reciprocity and multilateralism in research?
  3. Can participants self-select into or except out of research without direct or indirect consequences? What are the local implications of designing indeterminacy into the site and/or participant selection process?
  4. How are power disparities conceptualized, balanced or mitigated? How is power directly or indirectly coded or recognized into the research process and findings report?

As you engage with your research project, consider the other side of RIGOR, tipping the balance towards humanization, democratizing engagement and ambivalence. Only a very intentional and balanced approach to research can counteract the historical scientification, objectification and exotification of complex categorical lived realities that are far from neutral.

References:

Erickson and Gutierrez (2002). Culture, Rigor, and Science in Educational ResearchEducational Researcher. 31:8. 21-24.

Lather and Moss (2005). Introduction: Implications of Scientific Research in Education Report for Qualitative InquiryTeachers College Record. 107:1. 1-3.

Zembylas and Schutz, Eds. (2016) Methodological Advances in Research on Emotion and Education. Switzerland:Springer International Publishing.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow & Instructor

Welcome Boot Campers

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“Writing begins when our fear of doing nothing at all outweighs our fear of doing it badly.”

     ~  Louis de Bernieres

So, how about a hearty shout-out to all the members of the Spring ’17 cohort of Dissertation Boot Camp.  Whether you are at the stage of proposing, or data crunching or actually dissertating, congratulations – you’ve made it this far, and like we’d say back in the day, that ain’t nuthin’.

For those not in the know, Dissertation Boot Camp is brought to you by your Graduate Student Center.  The boot campers resolve to arrive on-site every morning for two weeks, turn off their email/social media, and get right down to it and have at it until early afternoon.  They also get the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Weingarten instructor to discuss their project, timelines and any unique challenges.  Dissertation Boot Camp has become a popular program, and has been running for more semesters than your blogger can count.  I mean, your humble blogger could count semesters, but that would require needless additional research, and procrastinating on the writing of this blog post by engaging in needless additional research would be setting a bad example.

For those of you who couldn’t do boot camp this semester, fret not, here are a few helpful hints from your learning center:

  • Inviolable Writing Time – Essential and non-negotiable, inviolable writing time is the basis for Dissertation Boot Camp and the “secret” to completing any writing project of considerable length. This means you set your weekly writing time and then you guard it ruthlessly.  Nothing and no one gets to intrude on this time.  If something comes up that needs time, steal the time from something else.
  • Log Off, Sign Out – Writing time can never be inviolable if you are obsessively checking email or social media. For three or four or five hours, you must remain out of the loop, away from everything that is not related to your project.  And let’s have none of that nonsense about multitasking; your project demands as much focus as you can muster.   Besides, in your blogger’s humble opinion multitasking is a sinister plot created by rogue elements in the human resources industry to make writers feel insecure about their “efficiency”.  Confirming this notion, however, would require additional needless research, and since we’ve already dismissed needless additional research, I’m moving on.
  • Visit Your Learning Center – Dissertation support is a popular service here at Weingarten. We can help you with managing the project or thinking through research strategies.  We provide you with a totally confidential, non-judgmental space.  Just think of us as the human embodiment of a hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich – soothing.

 

Pete Kimchuk

Senior Learning Instructor

Story of the Research Question

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Have you ever felt “stuck” conceptualizing and fleshing out your thesis and related research question?

At any point in the writing process and academic calendar, but especially relevant during the semester-end stretch when final papers are due, you may find yourself interrogating the premises of or struggling to develop or refine the research question itself.

One way to mindfully deliberate on the research question and release the conceptual flow of writing is to PAUSE and REFLECT on the “story” of the research question itself. This can be done by writing a brief reflective memo, which may or may not be integrated into the paper itself, but will probably prove to be quite cathartic and clarifying.

Taking license to be free and unrestrained, write as if journaling to yourself, and reflect on any one or combination of the following prompts relative to your research question:

  • What is the (background) “story” of (behind) the research question?
  • What has been the developmental trajectory or building blocks of the research question?
  • How did I become interested in this question?
  • Why is this question significant to me?
  • What do I find most compelling about my question?
  • In what ways do I connect with this question? What are my points-of-reference for contextualizing the research question – in my own life, practice, field, and/or in the world?

For more strategies, come to Weingarten, collaborate with a learning instructor and get tailored feedback through an individual consultation. Also, consider registering for our Dissertation Bootcamp!

By Staff writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow & Instructor