April 21, 2004

Speaking of research...

Research is a very tricky thing. In Brenda Laurel's pamphlet, Utopian Entrepreneur, she mentions how research (both academic and business) is flawed because no one researches just for the sake of research. Instead, they want to prove something or find an answer to a problem. Although these are valid reasons to research, what happens when you don't find what you are looking for? Laurel writes:

To be an honest researcher, you must resist the temptation to interpret as you go in terms of your own experience and values. Research ethics require that you approach your subject with an open mind and a question that does not contain its own answer.
I've found this to be especially true when writing research papers. Every professor wants a topic, a thesis or something to guide your research. So, you write something up and turn it in. Then, you work on putting your research together and you realize that what you found isn't supporting your argument. What are you supposed to do? One would hope that you change your thesis accordingly or write about the conflicting evidence in your paper. However, it's sometimes just easier to write your paper with what proves it, turn it in and say goodbye to it forever. [I hope this isn't how people do "real" research for studies and such.]

This takes me way back to freshman seminar, when I learned how to do a research paper. It started with coming up with a general idea, like "I want to find out more about mother-daughter relationships in Chinese-America to expand my reading of The Joy Luck Club. From there, you go to the library and do a little bit of preliminary research (I think we called it "reading around") to see what was interesting. Then you wrote your thesis. (Even the highly regarded Purdue OWL recommends this course of action.)

However, this doesn't always work. Recently I worked on my thesis with preliminary works cited for a paper on IF and Galatea. Even though I had to find a review a few sources for the paper, when the time came to take notes and put together my argument, the thesis didn't work. I supposed I could've forced it, but it really was better that I tweaked the thesis because the information that I wanted just wasn't accessable to me in the time frame that I had.

Even though this isn't the type of research that Laurel had in mind when writing her pamphlet, the same rules do apply. When she was doing the Purple Moon project, they wanted to create an ideal game/site for girls. After doing research, they realized that exlusion and secrets are part of social promotion. They knew that wouldn't make a flock of feminists happy, but because their purpose was to produce games for girls, they had to use their research to create a game that girls would identify with. So they did. They didn't hide from their research and see only what they wanted to see.

Posted by Julie Young at April 21, 2004 11:49 AM

I used to LIVE on the Purple Moon site... that was back in about 7th grade... wow.

Seems difficult to do research without something to slap you in the face as what you were looking for, but it'd be nice to not have to actually "prove" something, rather, I'd like to just research for the sake of learning and exploring new ideas. There's problem solving in research, most people don't realize that.

Posted by: Karissa at April 21, 2004 04:16 PM

No way! You might like to read my copy of Utopian Entrepreneur, then. :) [As if you have time for pleasure reading during this happy finals period...]

Posted by: Julie at April 21, 2004 11:20 PM

Ha! The only "pleasure reading" I'm going to give way to in the next few days is going to be restricted to the instruction manual for my new printer an digital camera...

Perhaps at a later date. ;^)

Posted by: Karissa at April 22, 2004 04:15 PM
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