The practice of research

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Spurred on by my Distinction for TU812, I signed up for T847 The MSc Professional Project.  It starts in November and will be the last module for me to gain the MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice (yeah, I know more letters but I have now moved on from the downer of my last post).

I’ve been in email correspondence with a couple of others who are also planning to do T847 – we’ve been wondering what we can do to ‘prepare’ over the summer.  Call it withdrawal symptoms if you like.

But, the emails have got me thinking – what am I preparing for?

The description of the course says that it is research-based.  That I will act as an informed investigator in a familiar situation (probably own workplace).  So for me it is a venture into doing research.  When I met Ray Ison in London at the Book Launch, we had a conversation which entailed me saying I would not want to do research, because I like being a practitioner.  To which he replied “But research is a practice too”.  Those words have been whirring around in my head ever since!

So, in order to get my MSc, I have to ‘practice’ research – presumably the course will cover some theory to guide me through making choices about what to do, getting up and running, doing it and writing about it.  Though obviously in just 6 months, I am not going to become a specialist researcher.  So the issue is – how does the research practice I am going to develop add value to my systems practice and how does my systems practice add value to my research practice?

Which comes do I combine them?  Practicing research with systemic awareness?  Using Systems ideas/models to help with framing and investigating and report writing (like systemic inquiry)?  Researching to ‘add to’ the body of knowledge in the Systems discipline?  None, or all of the above or something else altogether?

Then again – why does the MSc in Systems thinking in practice include a compulsory research based project in the first place?  Is it just because that is what academics know and I am being trained up to be an academic?  Or, is it because research practice is a good part of the repertoire of a systems practitioner? Or, am I reading too much into this – is it just a good opportunity to go into something that interests me in more detail?

If research is a practice, then it follows that there is a relational dynamic between the practitioner – or should I say researcher – their framework of ideas; the methods they use and the situation they engage in.  Systemically aware researchers also juggle the four balls – Being, Engaging, Contextualising and Managing.  If I am going to ‘do’ research as part of an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice then I have to make sure I keep these going.

My framework of ideas are based on post-modernism, social constructivism, discourse traditions – which will have an impact on my research ‘stance’ and research methods.  This is quite an interesting line of thought….

Going away to think through it some more… want to bring together what I already know about practice of research … I may be back!

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