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 Medical and the Health Sciences, to Engineering, Computer Science and Business, Sociology and Social Policy, to Education and many others, we seek to identify, collect, connect and correlate, analyze, triangulate 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, etc.
Whether or not our practices are directly or indirectly related to data generation, processes, manipulation and/or management, our lives are increasingly enveloped in DATA, and currently, BIG DATA, mediated by technological advances.
While there is substantive information, including literature, instruction, training and professional communities that serve the missions of quantitative and qualitative methods of research inquiry, it is worth reflecting and engaging with some enduring and universal questions about humanizing and democratizing research:
What is the [Symbolic or Material] VALUE of [Researcher/Practitioner] Data?
Who does Research ultimately Benefit?
- Whose interests does it serve?
- What purpose(s) does it fulfill, for whom and why?
- 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?
- What other outcomes or consequences can be anticipated or identified/acknowledged beyond/outside the scope of the research question/study?
- What are the cross-disciplinary implications of the study (e.g. social, economic, political, religious, etc.)
What are some of the issues of Access in Site and Participant Selection?
- Whose stories/agendas are studied/told, why, and how? Which stories/agendas are foregrounded, and which are subjugated? Whose stories/agendas are omitted?
- Which participants does research seek to reach by elicitation, and why? Is there an avenue/process for participants/communities to reach research opportunities? Is there reciprocity and multilateralness, or is research unilateral?
- 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 – at the local and macro levels?
- How are power disparities conceptualized, balanced or mitigated? How is power directly or indirectly coded or recognized into the research process and findings report?
So, the next time you engage with your research project and reflect upon your conceptualizations, site and participant selection, data sources and rules of engagement, and interactional methods, consider the other side of RIGOR, tipping the balance towards humanization, democratizing engagement and ambivalence.
Only a very intentional, many times, alternative approach to scientific research, can balance by counteracting the historical scientification, neutralization, objectification and exotified subjectivity of individual, community and complex categorical lived realities that are far from neutral, but politically imposed.
For more information about intersecting RESEARCH with their SOCIAL CONTEXTS, consider the following literature:
- Erickson and Gutierrez (2002). Culture, Rigor, and Science in Educational Research. Educational Researcher. 31:8. 21-24.
- Lather and Moss (2005). Introduction: Implications of Scientific Research in Education Report for Qualitative Inquiry. Teachers College Record. 107:1. 1-3.
- Zembylas and Schutz, Eds. (2016) Methodological Advances in Research on Emotion and Education. Switzerland:Springer International Publishing.
By WLRC Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor