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.
While the different methodological approaches frequently complemented one another, they also mounted in practical difficulties as well as theoretical contradictions. Based on my research, and a wealth of other people’s research, this book aims to provide a guide map on how to study the lived, discursive and social and political nature of contemporary reality. My intention has been to write a book that I would have liked to read before I started my research.
The thought of mastering a set of diverse research approaches, and combining them, may sound daunting for any beginning researcher as well as an experienced scholar, struggling as we all are with multiple pressures on our time. The success of any research project depends on a difficult balancing act between being both ambitious and doable. Thus, I would not suggest all research projects combine several views. Rather, the aim of the different chapters of the book is to outline different ways of doing research and to promote a way of doing them in the best possible way, by highlighting their specificity, strengths, possible problems and omissions.
Understanding the tactics of collaboration can help make the unique value of working well together real. It’s important because the whole — all of us, humanity — can be greater than the sum of our parts. We often discuss collaboration in terms of its relationship to competition; competition, at its best, can make each part more valuable and more effective, but collaboration adds value to the whole by focusing on how the parts work together. Effective collaboration depends on effective relationships between humans. If the right people are in the room, and if there is time and space for like minds and potential partners to find and engage with each other, then even the worst-designed gathering can be productive. If the right people are also talented, driven, and a bit entitled, they will make the space they need to be productive regardless of the meeting’s design. However, setting aside time and space is not the whole story. Effective collaboration also requires that all collaborators gain value from collaborating. When the value is reciprocal, other barriers become smaller and the collaboration is easier to sustain.
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Philosophers have warned of the perils of a life spent without reflection, but what constitutes reflective inquiry—and why it’s necessary in our lives—can be an elusive concept. Synthesizing ideas from minds as diverse as John Dewey and Paulo Freire, the Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry presents reflective thought in its most vital aspects, not as a fanciful or nostalgic exercise, but as a powerful means of seeing familiar events anew, encouraging critical thinking and crucial insight, teaching and learning. The authors discuss reflective inquiry as a form of active attention, an act of consciousness, and a process by which people can understand themselves, their work, and others. Building on this foundation, the Handbook of Reflection and Reflective Inquiry analyzes through the work of 40 internationally oriented authors: Definitional issues concerning reflection, what it is and is not; Worldwide social and moral conditions contributing to the growing interest in reflective inquiry in professional education; Reflection as promoted across professional educational domains, including K-12 education, teacher education, occupational therapy, and the law, among others; Methods of facilitating and scaffolding reflective engagement; Current pedagogical and research practices in reflection; Approaches to assessing reflective inquiry; Educators across the professions as well as adult educators, counselors and psychologists.
Action research consists of a family of research methodologies which pursue action and research outcomes at the same time. It therefore has some components which resemble consultancy or change agency, and some which resemble field research. Conventional experimental research, for good reason, has developed certain principles to guide its conduct. These principles are appropriate for certain types of research; but they can actually inhibit effective change. Action research has had to develop a different set of principles. It also has some characteristic differences from most other qualitative methods.
Currently, there are considerable demands made upon social science to demonstrate its ‘impact.’ These are institutionalized in the requirements laid down by funding bodies and in attempts strategically to manage research within universities. Moreover, as part of campaigns designed to protect the funding of social science there have been efforts to provide evidence of its impact and thereby of its value. Underpinning all this is the generally accepted assumption that it is desirable to maximize the impact of research on policymaking and practice. But is this true?
This article examines the use of photo-elicitation interviews as a qualitative research method when studying aspects of adolescent behaviour. In particular, it describes and evaluates the use of photo-elicitation interviews to investigate the outdoor education experiences of a group of 34 (12 male, 22 female) New Zealand secondary school students (aged 14–15 years old) who attended a school-based outdoor education programme, referred to throughout as ‘school camp’. Results indicate that the use of cameras, and hence photographs, are attractive features of the technique that render it suitable for engaging young people in academic research and exploring social experiences. While the inclusion of cameras also presents some methodological limitations and ethical considerations, photo-elicitation interviewing is a useful addition to the suite of qualitative research methods employed in outdoor education research.