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About this book

This practical, research-informed text will provide students across all disciplines with models, tasks and activities to enable them to plan, action, write and present quality research. It will help develop ideas, creative thinking and systematic research practices to enable students to produce high quality dissertations and reports.

Table of Contents

Getting Started

Frontmatter

1. The Enquiring Mind in Action

Abstract
One of the most interesting developments in higher education and further education in the UK and internationally over the last few years has been a move to encourage students to become involved with research as early as possible in their study. This recognises that research is not an exclusive activity for the dons of ancient universities or the scientists who are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge concerning, for example, medical practice, but that it can also be seen as a natural part of the way in which we go about learning. Most universities have focused provision for learner development and there is an organisation in the UK called the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDINHE) with this focus. Two major centres for developing students as researchers are at the University of Gloucester, led by Professor Mick Healey, and Oxford Brookes University, led by Professor Alan Jenkins, while the University of Brighton, for example, has developing students as researchers at the heart of its learning and teaching strategy.
Gina Wisker

2. Starting Research

Abstract
This chapter focuses you on why, when and how you might need to be involved in research and enquiry while at university; it introduces you to ways of defining the research areas and forms of research, and it considers what can be thought of as sources of information and data gathering.
Gina Wisker

3. Good Research: The Essentials

Abstract
This chapter looks at a range of basic ideas and approaches for good practice in research. It considers a variety of underpinning principles, approaches, and values in action which you should find useful whatever discipline or interdisciplinary area you are working in, in your research. It builds on a variety of fundamentally good ideas from a range of other books on carrying out research, including my own The Postgraduate Research Handbook (2008), interprets these good ideas in a broader range of subject areas, and adds to them. Instead of ‘Activities’, it uses prompt ‘Questions’ at the end of each section for you to reflect on your own developing research. It should be useful to you throughout your research at university and beyond.
Gina Wisker

4. Carrying Out Research for a Project or Dissertation

Abstract
Research is an everyday part of all your work at university whether reading round for a lecture or seminar, placement or fieldwork, or researching a topic or question for an assignment.
Gina Wisker

5. Research Paradigms, Theorising and Conceptual Frameworks

Abstract
Your research grows out of how you see the world, believe knowledge is revealed or constructed, and how you can structure your approach to making sense of that knowledge. As you develop your research, this involves research paradigms, theory, and constructing a conceptual framework. In this chapter we are looking at research paradigms based on how you see the world and what knowledge is believed to be, how it is discovered or created. We are also looking at how you structure your understanding of that knowledge, the role of the theory you use to select, structure and make sense of your research.
Gina Wisker

6. Writing a Research Proposal

Abstract
If you are carrying out a small piece of research to inform an essay or other assignment, you will not need to draw up a full-scale research proposal. However, you will need to identify your research question or hypothesis, the theories you think you will need to use, and key literature. You will also find it useful to develop a time and action plan to work out what parts of the research you need to carry out when and to make sure you get started with your writing as soon as possible. This is a small-scale version of the longer research proposal explored in this chapter, so reading about such a longer proposal for a longer, more complex piece of research will give you some idea of the research planning process, ready for when you undertake your own project or dissertation, normally in the third or final year.
Gina Wisker

7. Carrying Out a Literature Review: Engaging with the Literature

Abstract
There is an early chapter in a dissertation, or section in an essay or project, which is engaged with literature in the field and gives you a sense of theoretical perspectives. It is using the literature to establish context and argument, the perspectives of major theorists whose work informs yours — putting all of this into a dialogue with your work. It is important to remember that a literature review is a dynamic piece of work, not just a dead list of the books you have read, but an engagement with their ideas and arguments in relation to your research questions, problems or hypotheses.
Gina Wisker

8. Research Methodology and Methods

Abstract
Your research methodology is based on the way you see the world, your beliefs about existence and being in the world, and your relationship to that (ontology), and the way you believe knowledge is produced and constructed or discovered and fixed (epistemology). Methodology is the ideas-based system which can enable you to address your research question/problem/hypothesis. It underpins the research design, i.e., the plan for the research defining, among other things, the methods and the actual research tools or vehicles used to collect the data. ‘Research methodologies, therefore, comprise the theoretical frameworks and concepts in which approaches and methods are situated; they provide the rationale and justification (intellectual, epistemological and ethical) for the methods that are selected and the ways in which they are used’ (Stierer and Antoniou, 2004; quoted in Burgess, Sieminski and Arthur, 2006).
Gina Wisker

9. Finding and Using Sources

Abstract
Sources are essential in research — without them there are only questions and problems.
Gina Wisker

10. Using the Internet for Research

Abstract
The Internet is a very useful source of much of the secondary and some of the primary information which you might well need in your research. However, you need to become skilled in using it so that you get to the range of appropriate sources, rather than relying on Google (a search engine which can lead you to some of the sources you need, but not all) or Wikipedia (an online encyclopaedia of sorts which is written by anyone and everyone and so is sometimes brilliant and sometimes untrustworthy as a source) alone, and you do need to learn how to use the Internet wisely, in a properly selective, properly referenced fashion just like any other information source.
Gina Wisker

11. Quantitative Methods in Action: Questionnaires, Observation

Abstract
As we have discussed in the chapter on methodology and methods, quantitative methods are usually chosen for positivist research that is based in the belief that there are facts which can be gathered about the world, and that large numbers and repetition guarantee the reliability of such facts. It seeks to prove certain things about a world believed knowable, in which knowledge is to be discovered rather than constructed. Such research would use a deductive research design which proves and tests theory rather than building it, and would be likely to use quantitative research methods and research vehicles such as surveys of large numbers, and observation of a number of activities mapped against a schedule.
Gina Wisker

12. Qualitative Methods in Action

Abstract
Qualitative research methods are usually chosen when conducting research which is related to the social sciences, arts and humanities, and if you believe that:
  • knowledge is constructed;
  • knowledge is gained through exploring and interpreting human interactions, rather than that
  • it is factual, defined, provable.
Gina Wisker

13. Varieties of Research: Practitioner-Based and Action Research, Phenomenography and Ethnography, and other Real-World Research

Abstract
Practitioner-based research, action research, phenomenography and ethnography are all forms of research that work with human subjects without being experimental or based in any kind of clinical practice. They consider that knowledge and understanding are constructed and interpreted, and look at how people behave in context, in time, and often in the workplace or the place where they live. Many universities now also offer the opportunity to practise these forms of real-world research out in business or community contexts. Some offer the opportunities to become engaged in community, commercial or other real-world projects which involve research processes. Many of these could provide both sound grounding and an entrance into employment after graduation.
Gina Wisker

Managing People and Processes

Frontmatter

14. Collecting, Selecting, Organising and Analysing Data, Interpretation

Abstract
Once you have gathered your data you will need to manage it, carefully sort and label it, analyse it, look for patterns and themes then interpret it in a dialogue with the theories underpinning your work, and develop findings. You select from your data and present it as evidence to back up your research claims.
Gina Wisker

15. Managing Your Tutor or Supervisor

Abstract
Your relationship with your tutor or supervisor is the primary one on your research journey when you’re undertaking a dissertation or a project. It’s important to be able to get on with your tutor or supervisor in a friendly and professional manner and also to clarify right from the beginning what your expectations of each other are with regards to how you can communicate with each other, expectations of responsibilities and regularity of meetings, production of work, time management and management of the project.
Gina Wisker

16. Managing Your Time, Life, Paid Work and Research

Abstract
Establishing and maintaining the balance between work, research and life is important for you if you want to learn good habits to manage your time now, and for the future. This all makes good sense of course, and people have their differing ways of managing their time. This chapter helps you to think of ways of timing the stages of your research, and balancing its demands with the other demands of life, at different stages in the research and in your life. It considers a range of time-management practices to help you to balance your research work and the rest of your life and develop good habits for the future. It also helps you to consider work rhythms.
Gina Wisker

17. Putting Ethics into Practice

Abstract
Ethics are important in research at whatever level with which your work is engaged, although you will probably only need to seek your university’s ethical approval for your research if you are carrying out experimental work on animals or people in the sciences and gathering information from human subjects in the social sciences for a project, a dissertation or another long piece of work.
Gina Wisker

Difference, Writing and Moving On

Frontmatter

18. International Students

Abstract
Students are increasingly mobile and many students reading this book could well be defined as international, i.e. studying in a country from which their family does not originate.
Gina Wisker

19. Researching and Writing in Different Disciplines

Abstract
All the literature on research-based and dissertation writing indicates that you need to be encouraged to research in both rigorous and sensitive ways which are generic, and recognise, observe or cross disciplinary boundaries. The generic elements include making sure you develop a research question, develop an appropriate research design, work at a conceptual level. You also need to take note of discipline-related research processes, questions, and even the format of the written product. Start writing early and learn the conventions of your disciplines in terms of how you write, what you write, the language you use and the shape of the dissertation or other assignment (see Murray, 2002; Dunleavy, 2003).
Gina Wisker

20. Developing Good Writing Habits

Abstract
Enquiring minds are constantly asking questions. This kind of enquiring leads to research, which leads to new findings and interpretations. What you have found, interpreted, and can discuss and argue with others needs to be expressed in an accessible form. Learning to write ‘well enough’ to communicate your ideas and research findings for yourself and to other people, and learning to use writing to help you to articulate your thoughts, are essential for good research. Unless you have the ability to communicate well or the practice of communicating through presenting or writing, no one hears about what you have discovered and what you can argue. Writing helps you shape and communicate your ideas and the results of your research.
Gina Wisker

21. Writing Well, in the Right Shapes and Forms: the Authority of Your Research and Your Writing

Abstract
Your research is interesting, it has taken you a lot of work, it could be really fascinating and even groundbreaking, so it is important that it is communicated well to others. Your writing needs to show critical and conceptual engagement and be coherently organised and clearly expressed.
Gina Wisker

22. Maintaining Momentum: Overcoming Difficulties with Time, Writing, the Project and the Research Processes

Abstract
Typically, in the middle of a research project or as you approach the end, there could be a number of concerns about ways in which you can overcome various difficulties with what you are discovering in the research, how to interpret it, what you can say about your findings, what it all means, and whether you can write it all sufficiently elegantly in the time available. There are also difficulties of maintaining momentum, just keeping going through all the hard work to produce a rewarding, well finished piece of research, which is well written and making a contribution to knowledge.
Gina Wisker

23. What Do Examiners Look For? What Do Employers Look For? And How to Ensure Your Work Matches Their Expectations

Abstract
Examiners and employers expect students to be able to identify and solve problems, ask questions and work towards finding out the answers. In other words, they expect you to be able to undertake enquiry and research, through to completion. This involves a range of questioning behaviours, gathering of information, managing and analysing it, developing an argument and making a contribution to knowledge in written and other forms. This chapter will look briefly at the research behaviours and skills examiners and employers expect of you. It will then go on to suggest some ways you might further develop and recognise these practices and skills.
Gina Wisker
Additional information