Initial Thoughts and Bias

When I initially picked up the two assigned texts last week, I had a few assumptions about how enjoyable and useful each would prove to be. Of course, I anticipated that Luker's Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences would be an immediate favourite, while Knight's less-interestingly titled Small-Scale Research would be a necessary but boring read. My initial thoughts were only partially correct. (I'm looking forward to Luker's discussion about how to cope with unavoidable bias when approaching a topic, as I often make predeterminations that I recognize could easily be false, as I think we all do) Although I found Luker to be a more enjoyable read so far, I found that her open-ended brainstorming exercises did not assist me in the way I had hoped. I found the exercise at the end of chapter two resulted in more confusion than focus. Am I alone in finding this?

Knight's suggested approach, on the other hand, offered more direction to the process of brainstorming, narrowing and structuring a research question, which appealed more directly to my thought process. Approaching a new topic and assignment such as this one, I am appreciative of the roadmap that Knight has laid out for beginning the research process. I am also looking forward to continuing both texts, and no doubt changing my views of each from week to week.



mwells said...

I agree, I don't enjoy brainstorming exercises. I always find myself working hard to come up with crazy ideas to play free association with. And then I feel bad that my brain does not properly storm.

I think a better way is to note when questions come to you over the course of your day. Some incident you witness, large or small, might get you asking some specific sociological question. And then you can note it down and take a look at it later, when it is out of context.

- Matt

Amy. said...

I can relate with Matt on this one. While brainstorming can be (for myself) a great exercise for sorting out and solidifying my ideas, I tend to get lost and begin to worry about what I'm forgetting to jot down. Saying this, I too had thoughts similar to Cathy's while reading this week. Although Luker discusses the downfalls of traditional 'linear' methods of research, it would seem that some structure and linearity is necessary in order to ensure that a researcher stays on track. This is not to say that I suspect a researcher's query will not evolve (see Marcia Bates' Berrypicking Model), but I'm interested in Luker's solutions for keeping one's initally open-ended (and seemingly casual?) research focused and on-track, leading to its eventual conclusion.

Heather said...

I found both readings useful in thinking about the beginnings of a research project. However, I understand the points made above regarding Luker’s exercises. I started ‘brainstorming’, and have two pages of words and questions, but don’t feel anywhere near a possible question. I think my ideas would flow better while on the subway observing people than being forced to think in a quiet space. There’s another exercise. Perhaps I will carry my research notebook everywhere!

However, in Luker’s defence, I found her narrative style more engaging. Plus, I am more interested in the qualitative side of research, which she seems to be as well. Providing personal examples with her research, and highlighting some ‘do’s and don’ts’ will hopefully help me create a well-defined research question. And, as Luker mentions, word choice with all these research questions is paramount (as illustrated with her ‘native American’ example).

Stephanie Lauren said...

I'm personally really excited about Luker's book... but I'm also the type of nerd that will do the exercises listed at the end of a chapter! Knight's chapter did inspire me to dedicate one of my cheap dollarama notebooks for "research ideas" though.

To answer your question Cathy : I feel as if we're not supposed to be more focused with our research ideas just yet. While she wants you to develop more specific questions with the exercise in Chapter 2, I think she also wants you to still be open-ended and write down a variety of research questions that engage you. Almost like stream of consciousness writing for researchers!

I think when you leave your writing for a day or two and come back to it, you'll find connections in your brainstorming that weren't initially obvious to you. That's the way I ended up feeling about my experience with this exercise.

Aaron. said...

Myself, I found Knight dry but useful, while Luker was more enjoyable to read but a little loose in focus - though I imagine this will change as we read further, as she's promised more detail on ideas she's thrown out. That doesn't seem too out-of-sync with what I'm seeing in other comments here.

It's possible that, as a slightly older student (by how much I refuse to say) I've been preconditioned by the canonical power structure to trust writing like Knight's over Luker's slightly more relaxed style.

And, frankly, she leans too heavily on 'salsa-dancing' as a metaphor. By the end of chapter 3 it was starting to set my teeth on edge every time I read that phrase.

Sara M. Grimes said...

Hee hee - all of this is very good to know. But in the end, this is exactly why I think the course needs both texts. Luker isn't for everyone, but then neither is Knight. Each has their own strengths and seems to appeal to a different type of student/scholar.

Amy. said...

Haha, Aaron makes a point that reflects my sentiments exactly. At first I preferred Luker's readings much more than those written by Knight - but today that changed (use of salsa-dancing, general long-winded narrative). I suppose I'm in the middle of what Sara's describing - not just at one end of the spectrum when it comes to 'types' of students/scholars.

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