critical - Griffith University

Starting Your Research Journey:
critical methodologies
Associate Professor Sue Thomas
HDR Forum Friday 16 August 2013
Starting Your Research Journey
• Research is a journey, a
process that is
characterised by:
– Wanderings
– Dead-ends and false
– Difficulties
– Writing blocks
– Pleasures and
– Excitement and
• A dissertation can be
thought of as a building, a
solid piece of work:
– coherent
– develops an argument
– proves a point
– where each chapter
builds on the one
A Journey or a Building?
The Island of Research
City of Hope
Jungle of Authority
Problem Mire
Bay of Literature
River of Words
Bog of Lost Manuscripts
Rewrite Trail
Sea of Theory
Where-am-I Fog
• DDD Delta of Dirty Data
• Data analysis Jungle
• Data Fever breeding
• Canyon of Despair
• Ridge of Boredom
• Mount Where-are-we-going
• Serendipity Mire
• Pinnacle of Dogmatism
• Bay of Leisure
Research Diaries
• Research diaries can be used by the
rent/record of the research. They can
Moments when you are asking questions
Your engagement with problems and issues
The development of solutions
Moments of decision about research design or
– Reflections about experience
Source: Wisker (2008)
Research Diaries
• Research diaries should include:
– What you do, and where, how and why you do it.
Include dates.
– Notes on what you read
– Particular achievements, dead-ends and surprises
– What you think or feel about what is happening
– Any thoughts that may be relevant to your research
Source: Cryer (2006)
Sally’s diary
When I began this study, I had little idea about how I might go about it. I had vague
notions of exploring how diagnoses are constructed by health professionals. This was
based on my past experience of having a psychiatric liaison role with an Accident and
Emergency Department. (Silverman, 2005, p. 25)
Simon’s diary
It was with these issues in mind that I happened across parents’ evening data. At the
time my partner was a relatively new primary school teacher, and her exposure to the
realities of parents’ evenings led to her assertion that such meetings had not been
directly addressed within her teacher-training course. This difficulty with parents’
evenings from the teacher’s perspective chimed with further anecdotal information
from my own parents, whose experience of such meetings tallied with the ‘public
relations’ exercise view outlined by Baker & Keogh (1995:264) (Silverman, 2005, p.
Emily’s diary
Clough and Nutbrown (2007: 27) talk about choosing methods, and say that selecting
which methods to use indicates a particular ‘take’ on the world and how it operates. I
can go along with this because though I say that interviewing is the only way, it’s not
really… Where does that get me with discussing my methodology? (Clough &
Nutbrown, 2002, p. ix)
Identifying a Research Topic
• What makes your eyes light up i.e. what
are you passionate about?
• Does it make a difference i.e. is it worth
your while to spend time investigating
this issue?
• Is it a brick or a wall (not a brick but a
line of bricks) i.e. will your investigation
result in an outcome?
Strategies to help you
CONGREGATE with birds of
a feather
• School
– Student academic partners scheme
– Directors
– Griffith University Speakers Group
– HDR Meeting
– HDR Support Site
– Mentoring
– Student groups
– HDR Work-in-Progress Seminars
– Research Methodologies Laboratories
• The Griffith Social and Behavioural Research College
– Research training workshops
Research Methodologies Laboratories
• Critical methodologies research group
Sue Thomas
• Transcript analysis group
Rod Gardner
• Narrative analysis
Susie Garvis
• Quantitative methodologies special interest group
Helen Klieve/Marleen Westerveld
Critical Methodologies Research Group
We are a group of scholars interested in the use of critical
research methodologies in the broad and eclectic field of
educational research. We draw on, and bring together, ideas,
concepts and understandings from areas such as
critical cultural studies,
critical pedagogy
critical media studies
critical discourse theory, including CDA
critical policy studies
sociology of knowledge
actor network theory.
Guiding Questions
We have identified two questions to facilitate
collaborative conversations about criticality within
and beyond the group:
• What does it mean to do critical educational
research at this time and in this place?
• How can criticality be operationalised in our
research projects?
• Build, maintain, strengthen and formalise a critical
research culture at Griffith.
• Populate an internal support network for Griffith
critical researchers.
• Facilitate collaborate conversations about
criticality within and beyond this location.
• Develop skills in methods used in critical research
As a starting point, critical research “seeks to expose
how relations of power and inequality, (social,
cultural, economic), in their myriad forms
combinations and complexities, are manifest and are
challenged” (Apple, Wu and Gandin, 2009, p. 3). It
seeks to engage in the process of repositioning in
order to understand the experiences of
disadvantaged groups and to act against the
ideological and institutional practices that work to
marginalise them.
Our Meetings are…
informal conversations that aim to provide opportunities
both to extend our theoretical understandings of the
critical lens (a sort of Dummies Guide to Critical Theory);
to gain knowledge and skills in the application of critical
research tools; and to develop our academic profiles.
Conversations are kick started by one or more of the
sharing ideas and resources about criticality
reading each others' papers as critical friends
analysing data from members' projects
planning joint research projects
exploring the uses of social media
Meeting dates for 2013
• Friday 23 August
• Friday 4 October
• Friday 1 November
Join Us
We welcome any who are interested in Criticality. We
have a CRM organisation site in [email protected]
Follow us on Twitter (@critresmet and
[email protected]).
We would love to see you at the next meeting.
Please email Sue at to be
added to the mailing list.

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