Edited by Carlos Vargas-Silva
Chapter 24: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You: Moving from a Research Puzzle to Publishing Findings
Irene Bloemraad During my undergraduate degree, I was a consumer of academic research. I read books and articles that my professors assigned, and I searched for more books and articles when asked to write a ‘research paper.’ My papers were analyses of other people’s scholarship: I compared, contrasted, and criticized theory and research, but I did not carry out my own studies. One of the harder parts of being a graduate student was becoming a producer of research. I had become so well trained in criticizing other people’s work that the thought of producing my own was unnerving. How do you map out a solid research plan when you had never done research before? The dissertation felt like a mountain of Everest-like heights, and all I had were hiking boots, but no other climbing gear. The methods textbooks, which were supposed to be the ‘how-to’ guides for this journey, tended to increase my anxiety rather than alleviate it. They invariably made the research process sound easy: identify a research question, review the relevant literature, pick an appropriate methodology, collect data, analyse the data, and then write up the results. The academic articles I read in class all seemed to follow the textbook format, describing a logical and orderly process that unfolded effortlessly. Over the seven years of my PhD, I learned that these templates, while accurate about the parts of a research project, obscure the messy reality of putting it all together and carrying out the project. In this chapter,...
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