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On writing about, thinking and teaching research methods.

I wrote a thread in Spanish last night on puzzles and how to craft research questions. I’ve written about this topic several times in English, and in Spanish, but not on the actual topic of “puzzles”. This blog post is NOT about “puzzles” (I am preparing another one, in English, on this very topic). But the amount of reading I did to just feel BARELY that I had mastered the notion of why we teach students to write research questions based on puzzles was unreal. I had to read a heck of a lot.

Home office (Aguascalientes)

There are multiple things I think about ALL THE FREAKING TIME: generalizability, reliability, reproducibility, transparency, research design, concept formation, theorization, ethics of research, fieldwork. I am a methodologist, after all.

This thinking and writing and reflecting on multiple elements of research methods, has to occur in addition to the reading, thinking, writing and researching I do in my substantive areas (comparative public policy, environmental politics, water governance, waste and discards, homelessness, elder care policy, public administration and comparative politics, transnational environmental activism).

Yes, of course thinking about research methods all the time makes me a better researcher. And yes, reading (and writing) about writing DOES make me a better writer. No regrets.

But this entire process of thinking, pondering, reading, researching and crafting processes, models, frameworks that people can use in their own research, TAKES A LOT OF TIME AND BRAIN POWER.

I don’t feel it’s a waste of my time to come up with frameworks, models, techniques, strategies and processes that make my readers’ research, teaching and learning easier. But it IS an investment, and this weekend I’m just tired.

Rewarding activity, for sure. But consuming too!

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Posted in academia, fieldwork, research, research methods, teaching, writing.

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  1. Emily says

    Your approach has inspired me to approach my own research and learning worlflow with a new zeal. Previously, I often felt demoralised by knowing that my reading and writing skills were holding me back as a scientist (even before my scientific career had really began), but your work helped me to reframe this impossible obstacle as a challenging, but doable quest.

    Amusingly, when I first discovered this site, there was so much information that I wanted to absorb that my usual “skim it, save it (and forget it)” approach felt especially deficient; it really highlighted *why* I wanted to get better at this stuff – sure, better academic communication would help my career, but on a personal level, I was sick of engaging with material superficially and having so many demands on my attention but feeling like I was getting no-where. I wanted to be able to share interesting facts and insights with my friends and not forget where I’d learned it when they asked me for a source so they could read more.

    It’s prompted my own personal knowledge revolution in how I process and store information, whether for work or for leisure. A lot of elements of your workflow don’t mesh well with how I work because they’re your personal answer to the big million dollar question, but I’m gradually discovering my own answers and I’m blown away by how much progress I’ve made. Recently, a few friends have surprised me by asking me for details about my research workflow and I’m quickly learning that distilling ideas into frameworks and strategies for others to use is much harder than actually writing the research papers.

    I can see why you’re so tired. I can also see why you do it though, because as Dr Hirsch points out, the time you spend facilitating research benefits a multitude of other researchers who now have bonus time and brain energy to put into their research (or perhaps much needed self care). You have catalysed a bright spark of enthusiam towards doing the same kind of work you do, and I like to imagine that some day I might write some of my ideas down eloquently enough that you share my work on this blog. Thanks for everything, and I hope you get a chance to recover

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