Friday, 21 January 2011

18.1. Research questions

We discussed the assignment: to find a concept in use in Kathrin Wildner's article, reflect how it was used, what if it had not been there, and if the concept made any sense from the point of one's own experience. An interesting amount of concepts were mentioned - collective innovation, negotiation, togetherness, social space, public sphere... with a clear use identified for them. Thank you, really good work everybody!

The topic for the day was "research questions":
how to get from interest - to topic - to questions and problems. 

The short lecture was drawn basically from "The Craft of Research".

To find a topic for your research, first advice is to start with what interests you. For an interest to become a topic you have to specify the interest, "state it specifically enough for you to become a (local) expert on it". To narrow a topic into a research question you'll have to ask questions from it. A good research begins with what you don't know but what you would like to know:

Who, what, when, where, how and why?

The other tool to define your research topic is to name it in order to be able to explain to others what you are doing:

From topics to questions:

Practical problems -> motivate research questions
Research questions -> define research problems
Research problems -> lead to research answers
Research answers -> help solve practical problems

A problem describes a condition or state of affairs - which has some consequences or "costs"

Practical (research) problems are caused by some condition of the world.
Conceptual research problems mean trying to understand something better.

The "cost" of a practical problems is always some degree of unhappiness.
The "cost" of a conceptual problem is not understanding something important.

Discussing interests 

Which we did, to try and find some interest or glimpse of it for each. We also had a good discussion about finding forced interests and doing research for some external pressure. I agree: unless at least YOU are passionately interested by your own topic, why the hec will anybody else be? Therefore, once more: even if formal requirements demand you to make a final thesis that necessarily will involve some degree of research perspective - even if it is based on a production, artistic or otherwise - it is practically necessary that you do it within a topic you care about.

And we managed to name some interests, and find small teams within which everybody can discuss and work on their own interest/topic/research questions - or form a joint one, if they want.

Assignment for next time i.e. 1.2:

Narrow the topic by asking it questions. Name you topic, using the scheme above. Do some initial background research on the topic - history, what is being discussed, what/who is the classic in the field, what aspects have been well researched - is there something that you could be looking into etc. In case of an artistic interest: think of exemplary works and their history and context. Find at least one article dealing with the topic, and go through it. How does it affect how you see and define your topic?

For next time please bring the "name your topic" exercise in writing, for each topic you or your team will be working on.
Make also half page of notes from the article - not necessarily a summary of the contents, but a point that gets you and makes you think.

If in doubt or feeling lost, come and ask!

No comments:

Post a Comment