This issue of Systemic Practice and Action Research focuses on the practice of co-operative inquiry, and in particular on the choices and actions of those who initiate and facilitate co-operative inquiry groups. I have been struck how much the people who I talk to about co-operative inquiry want to hear stories: not just the theory and methodology, but the human stories about how it all works. They want to know how to initiate an inquiry group, how many people to include, how long the inquiry should go on for, how to locate an inquiry within an organization. In particular, they want to know about the personal qualities this kind of inquiry will demand, the attitudes and skills they will be required to manifest. Maybe the most frequent question people ask is about power and influence: If the inquiry is to be truly co-operative, does this mean that as initiator I cannot be influential? The six papers in this issue address these concerns by providing accounts of how the authors—all of whom recently initiated and participated in co-operative inquiry projects—established and worked with inquiry groups.
Designed for introductory research courses in the professional fields and social sciences, this text acquaints students and beginning researchers with a broad view of research methodologies and an understanding of the assumptions that inform each of these approaches. More experienced researchers will also find the book useful in acquainting them with methodologies and theoretical frameworks that are new to them.The text is distinguished by its avoidance of using the discreet categories of qualitative and quantitative methods to organize the chapters. While some chapter authors rely more on one or the other, many employ multiple methodologies to investigate particular problems and questions. Further, the book is not organized into single, contradictory positivist-interpretivist categories of research; chapter authors often situate methodologies within a variety of, and sometimes multiple, theoretical positions, particularly as these approaches are shaped by the historical context of social science research. Focus points in Foundations for Research: Methods of Inquiry in Education and the Social Sciences, research ethics, intertwined relationship of theory and research design, systematic examination of ways to design and implement high-quality, trustworthy research across varying research designs, specific methods for implementing research within various frameworks, pedagogical strategies.
Umberto Eco published a little book for his students, How to Write a Thesis, in which he offered useful advice on all the steps involved in researching and writing a thesis—from choosing a topic to organizing a work schedule to writing the final draft. Eco’s approach is anything but dry and academic. He not only offers practical advice but also considers larger questions about the value of the thesis-writing exercise. How to Write a Thesis is unlike any other writing manual. It reads like a novel. It is opinionated. It is frequently irreverent, sometimes polemical, and often hilarious. Eco advises students how to avoid “thesis neurosis” and he answers the important question “Must You Read Books?” He reminds students “You are not Proust” and “Write everything that comes into your head, but only in the first draft.” Eco’s index card research system offers important lessons about critical thinking and information curating for students who may be burdened by Big Data. How to Write a Thesis belongs on the bookshelves of students, teachers, writers, and Eco fans everywhere. Already a classic, it would fit nicely between two other classics: Strunk and White and The Name of the Rose.