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Posts tagged ‘research’

My current PhD module is on the research ‘technology’ of systematic reviewing.  This type of research study is a manifestation of the evidence-based practice movement driven by the desire to make sure that research informs practice and/or policy.  Systematic reviewing arose in the world of medicine as a way of drawing together the findings of different ‘Randomised control trials’ in order to come up with a better answer to whether the intervention x leads to an outcome y.  The method of systematic review was/is hailed as better than traditional literature reviews which were criticised for cherry-picking the studies that fit with what an author wants to say.  My own view is that the traditional literature review actually has a different purpose – to scope out existing research in an area to highlight the ‘niche’ for a proposed piece of research and as Boell and Cecez-Kecmanovic (2014) eloquently argue can be undertaken just as rigorously.

Anyway, as I’ve gone through the module, I’ve begun to understand that the term systematic review now goes well beyond the original ‘what works’ review of the Cochrane collaboration.  There are a multitude of different approaches to identifying and synthesising both quantitative and qualitative information held in research literature underpinned by a variety of study designs – like other forms of research they arise from different epistemological perspectives and therefore approach the task in different ways in order to answer different types of questions.  There are now articles of systematic review methods leading to different typologies and a multitude of terms (see for example, Dixon-Woods et al, 2005; Gough et al, 2012; and, Grant and Booth, 2009) and more that focus on different ‘stages’ of the review process especially synthesis (see Barnett-Page and Thomas, 2009).

As I near the end of the module, I’ve started to wonder about the degree to which systematic reviewing can be undertaken systemically.  The systems practitioner in me is rearing its head! As Ray Ison once said to me – “research is a practice too” – words which I directly hold responsible for me doing a PhD in the first place [depending on the day I am having that may be blame or gratitude!]

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My current PhD module is ‘Philosophy of research’.  On the one hand, I love it – finally a chance to get to grips with all that language associated with philosophy – epistemology, ontology, axiology and so on.  But I’ve also found myself getting increasingly frustrated with the endless list of ‘research paradigms’ and talk of stances and positions and the assumed direct (but really blurred) relationship with ‘methods’.  It’s not that I don’t understand it or ‘get it’, I’ve just found myself wondering what it is we are doing when we are distinguishing, labelling, categorising, and ultimately reifying research paradigms – and what is our purpose in doing so.

A couple of lines in one of my research text books (Robson, 2012) has led me into an interesting – I was going to say tangent, but that would mean I should go back – it’s a new interesting way of framing my understanding of the world of research

Robson (2012, page 27) states “In terms of research paradigms, a way forward is to be less concerned with ‘paradigms as philosophical stance’ and to adopt a notion of ‘paradigms as shared beliefs among groups of researchers’ (Morgan, 2007)”

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okay the doctorate has started!  I’ve had the introductory ‘summer academy’ and now have the follow on assignment.  I understand that this is in part to help us try out and hone in on the ‘academic style of writing’ but also to put some of the things we covered at the academy into practice – literature reviews, research questions, quantitative research, qualitative research, systematic literature reviews were all covered in relatively short one hour lectures.  This research proposal is for hypothetical research – not the ‘real’ one we will end up doing, so the point is to learn how to write research proposals.

But although we were set the task of ‘write a research proposal’ and I understand how all these things are parts of it – I came away with a few burning questions – what is a research proposal for?  what is its purpose? what does a successful one look like?

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It’s not long since I wrote My role as a researcher as part of my ongoing inquiry into the nature and value of research.  I think – using Vickers terms – that my appreciative setting is now firmly set to spot additional potential developments to this inquiry.  Either that or its like lots of buses coming along at once.

So I was really interested to see an online first announcement for an article by Khan et al (2013)  – the first three lines of the abstract saying…

“What is the purpose of knowledge? Is it an end product only, or a means for action for change? Who is expected to take action – the researcher, research subjects, both, or some unknown others who may come across the knowledge produced? The larger question then is: is it health research, or research for health, equity and development?” (no page numbers)

The article gave me some new food for thought…

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I’m now officially four days into the induction programme for my Professional Doctorate in Public Health at the University of Lancaster.  We’ve got some on-line induction activities to do – then in a couple of weeks is the summer residential academy.  I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow students for ‘real’ beyond the on-line networking we’ve started.

But today yet again, I found myself inquiring into the relationship between ‘doing my job’, ‘doing research’, ‘producing knowledge’ and what these things mean with respect to the relationship with my colleagues and others who will become ‘participants’ in my research.

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A while back, I wrote a blog with a similar title to this – but with ‘systems thinking’ rather than ‘research’ the focus of the answer.  That blog was inspired by Ison (2010, 187)’s discussion about – if ‘managing’ is the answer what is the question.

This frame of inquiry came to mind today as I started thinking about the purpose of ‘research’ – what is the system to which doing research is the answer?

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You’ll see I haven’t been blogging much recently.  It’s not that I haven’t been doing any thinking or reading – just that none of it is coherent enough to rally together into a blog post.  It’s a little weird not having the rigour of an academic course to say – read this, think about it, reflect it back in assignments – at least the academic courses gave me a route, a journey to follow, and a timetable.  Sure I did little forays every now and again – up interesting cul de sacs and detours, but the main journey was charted for me and I could see what it was to make progress. Read more »

I have now been chatting about my research to enough people to start getting requests for the ‘products’ – so here is a page of downloads that I’ll probably add to over time…

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Since last November, I have carried out endless searches for articles that resonate with my desire to practice research in a manner consistent with developing my systems practice.  Whether it about being a systemic research practitioner or a research-oriented systems practictioner, I don’t think it really matters.  My main driver was that T847 was part of my ‘trajectory’ of developing my systems practice – and I wanted that to be about the practice/praxis of my research, not just the content/topic.

Every so often, I found a ‘gem’ – the needle in the haystack that helped distill things.  Sometimes this was the product of my own labours, other times a gift from Arwen, another student carrying out similiar inquiries to myself.  It may be that I was not a ‘good’ searcher, but it seems those hits were quite few and far between.

So I thought I would pull together all the ‘gems’ in one place so that I can remind myself what it was about them.  This post may also offer others on a similiar journey to me, to reduce their own searching hours by offering a platform to start from. Read more »

After all those weeks of writing very academically about my research topic, I’m finding it hard to explain it all ‘in lay terms’ – removing all the public health speak; Systems speak; and, research speak.  I want to write a briefing note to share the findings – not least with the participants – but short of copying and pasting the relevant bits into a new document I am stuck as to how to make it readable, understandable and engaging.  How do I ‘sell’ the ideas that I have developed – I think they are really helpful ideas, but they are only helpful if you realise the problem that they help with exists in the first place!

So I thought I would try and do it bloggy style here to break the academic mode of writing – in the hope that I can subsequently write something that fits in the middle. Read more »

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