Friday, November 23, 2007

Research Philosophical Essay: Where am I?

Hello everyone,
Week 1 coming to an end... where am I? Well, you could use a metaphor and say I was a sponge trying to soak up a pretty big spill, but unfortunately the spill is quite large (content area reading) and my sponge is a little ineffective (or my brain is OS9, trying to deal with i-life applications... bit of a MAC reference there...)...
What am I trying to come to terms with at the moment...and struggling...
The awards go to...
1. In the category of Jargon
~ and the biggest winners so far are Epistemology, Ontology, and Axiology and whateverelse-ology... Actually it is good to be able to put words to the things that I am thinking…but maybe don’t have a word for… I was reading an article dealing with subjectivity (Luhrmann T.M. 2006) that discussed emotions and how different cultures have different ways of expressing various feelings. Some cultures didn’t have a word for ‘sad’, but they expressed the feeling in another way.. It got me thinking about knowing the concepts behind words, but not having the jargon to talk about them in sufficient detail. Now, we have all this new jargon that expresses our ideas even more succinctly;-)

2. In the category of Concepts: The winner is ‘Falsifiability’.
I was particularly struggling with the concept of falsifiability… It is a concept that has come up a number of times in my study, but it is quite a difficult thing for me to grasp. The idea of having to have the logical possibility that something can be shown to be false is quite difficult for me to grasp. And it almost seems defeatist…in that we can only ever accept something until it is proven otherwise, and we can never feel absolute confidence in any decision or outcome… But then again, it allows for improvement, modification, or even change on a large scale…which can make one feel quite satisfied in that we don’t have to stick to traditions that start seeming to be inappropriate within changing societies. Tradition handed down from one generation to the next, is often accepted at face value, due to its long history…even though it could be wrong…case in point: “the world is flat…”

3. In the category of methods and approaches: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods win hands down... I see a lot of theory trying to say that these concepts have been thought of as mutually exclusive for a long time, but are now being thought of as complementary. I’m kind of moving toward this later idea. I believe that quantitative data and descriptive analysis can sit side by side…I just need some more information to prove it…When I did ‘Testing’ I noticed you could use both numerical data and qualitative descriptions in analytical scoring. It was quite satisfying, being able to give a number and description of the test takers ability on an item. Yet, when it comes to the student, what will they look at? The number or the description?

4. In the category of self awareness: What kind of researcher am I? Well,
A) Having grown up in Australia with an immigrant mother an Australia born father
B) Culture and language
C) Living in Japan as an Australian
D) Having taught in a variety of contexts.
These among other things are shaping the researcher I am. I am starting to think that the research we do is inextricably linked to our self identity, and what we bring to the research can determine how we conduct the body of our research. Although the paradigm of the research may be determined by the need established by the end users, and/or the needs set out by the inquiry, the approach and methods we use are accented by the person we are. What do I mean by this? Well, even though the goal in scientific method is to be as objective as possible, and try to limit all influences from the researcher, I think that it is extremely difficult to eliminate all subjectivity, even in the data analysis of quantitative studies. The questions we choose and the procedure we follow will have slight variations due to individual researcher bias. Just as no two cooks can make exactly the same meal, no two researchers will have exactly the same influence (or lack there of) on a research study.

This is where I am at the moment… It is not much, and definitely not very logical, but it is an attempt to think aloud and share some thoughts…
Steven Mondy

Luhrmann T.M. (2006) Subjectivity, SAGE publications, University of Chicago, USA

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